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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada for Thursday, March 11, 2021 – GuelphToday

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern):

5:55 p.m.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it’s dropping the eligible age for seniors to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments to 80, down from 85.

Thursday was the launch of the province’s booking system, announced after people raised concerns about waiting to be contacted by public health to receive their shots.

The health authority says around 4,300 appointments were made by phone or online.

It was only open to residents 85 and older, but the authority says the age will drop to 80, starting Friday, after a successful first-day rollout.

5:50 p.m.

Yukon’s chief medical officer of health is warning residents to avoid all non-essential travel during the upcoming March break to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Dr. Brendan Hanley says in a statement that non-essential travel out of Yukon is not recommended, and those who do so will have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return. 

He says the designated quarantine facility in Whitehorse is not available for those who travel for recreation, entertainment or tourism purposes.

5:30 p.m.

Alberta has recorded 364 new COVID-19 infections and five more deaths. 

Chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw says about four per cent of tests in the past day came back positive.

There are 259 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 38 in intensive care. 

The province also reported 41 more variant cases over the past day, bringing its total to 775.

5:30 p.m.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer is allowing up to 10 people to meet outdoors after nearly four months of restrictions that barred social gatherings between people from different households.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says restrictions on indoor gatherings and rules for restaurants, bars, retail stores and other venues remain in place.

She says while the infection curve of the pandemic is trending down on Vancouver Island and in the Interior and Northern health regions, COVID-19 is still circulating in communities, particularly in the Lower Mainland.

Henry announced 569 new cases today and three more deaths, pushing the death toll in the province to 1,397.

More than 360,000 doses of COVID-19 have been administered in the province so far.

3:05 p.m.

Health officials in Saskatchewan announced another 165 new cases of COVID-19.

In Regina, the Ministry of Health reports an increase in community transmission of variants of concern.

To date, many of the cases connected to the B.1.1.7 strain, first detected in the United Kingdom, have been found in and around the capital city.

There are 137 people in hospital with COVID-19 provincewide, with 27 in intensive care.

Officials say so far, the province has given nearly 96,000 doses of vaccine.

1:35 p.m.

Manitoba is reporting three COVID-19 deaths and 91 new cases.

However, three cases from unspecified dates have been removed due to data corrections, bringing the net increase to 88.

1:15 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador is reporting one new case of COVID-19.

The case involves a man in his 50s in the eastern region, where officials beat back an outbreak that spread through the metro region last month.

Officials say the outbreak initially spread through high school students, ultimately affecting at least 185 staff and students in 22 different schools.

The Department of Education announced today that St. John’s-area schools will reopen next week for students in kindergarten through Grade 9, but remote learning will continue for high school students across the province.

1:05 p.m.

New Brunswick is reporting two new cases of COVID-19 today.

Health officials say the two cases are in the Moncton area.

Officials are also announcing that starting today, residents aged 85 and older can set up COVID-19 vaccine appointments at pharmacies, which will begin administering doses March 17.

New Brunswick has 34 active reported cases of the disease. 

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton’s mayor says flags on municipal buildings will fly at half-mast to honour those who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Don Iveson says the city’s iconic High Level Bridge across the North Saskatchewan River will be lit in white to mark the national day of observance.  

There have 810 deaths from COVID-19 recorded in the Alberta capital, which has a population of just under a million people.

Nearly 2,000 people have died from COVID-19 across the province.

11:15 a.m.

Ontario reported 1,092 new cases of COVID-19 today and has surpassed a million total vaccine doses administered.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 293 new cases are in Toronto, 199 are in Peel Region, and 79 are in York Region.

More than 40,000 vaccine doses were administered since Wednesday’s update, taking Ontario past the million-dose milestone.

Ten more deaths were linked to the virus in Ontario.

11 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 738 new COVID-19 cases and 15 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including three in the past 24 hours.

Health officials said today hospitalizations dropped by 18, to 563, and 111 people were in intensive care, a drop of one.

Officials say they administered 18,659 vaccine doses on Wednesday, for a total of 619,060.

Quebec has reported a total of 295,390 COVID-19 cases and 10,518 deaths linked to the virus; there are 7,134 active reported infections in the province.

10:35 a.m.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is using a white rose in the House of Commons to remember those who have died from COVID-19 over the past year.

Blanchet is also calling for Canada to address the inequality and shortcomings in the national health-care system that were exposed during the pandemic.

He is also marking the sacrifices of health-care and other front-line workers, many of whom are women.

10:20 a.m.

Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is using an address in the House of Commons marking the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by listing the many ways in which Canadians have suffered over the past year.

He’s also criticizing the Liberal government for what he describes as the slow pace of vaccinations to date.

O’Toole says many Canadians have lost their jobs over the past year, while many others are struggling with mental-health challenges, domestic violence and opioid addictions.

The Conservative leader says most Canadians remain unsure when they will get vaccinated, and Canada must learn from the past 12 months and ensure the country is not caught by surprise again in the future.

10:10 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is marking the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic by remembering the more than 20,000 people who have died from the illness.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Trudeau also praised the health-care workers, military personnel and others who have stepped up over the last year to help Canadians through the pandemic.

The prime minister describes the past 12 months as “a tough year, a heartbreaking year, but it is a year we have faced together.”

10 a.m.

U.S.-based vaccine maker Moderna says it has now started giving doses of a B.1.351 COVID-19 variant booster shot to 60 people who have already been vaccinated with the company’s original shot. 

The phase two trial is testing various combinations, including two different sizes of doses of just the booster shot that has adjusted the original vaccine to account for the changes seen in the variant first identified in South Africa.

A third version combines both the original vaccine and the booster shot, attempting to see if one jab can cover the original virus and the new variant.

Lab tests showed Moderna’s original vaccine did produce antibodies when put up against multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, but the level of response against B.1.351 was as much as six times less than that against the original virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Factbox: Countries respond to heart inflammation risk from mRNA shots

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Some countries have halted altogether or are giving only one dose of COVID shots based on so-called mRNA technology to teens following reports of possible rare cardiovascular side effects.

Europe’s drug regulator said in July it had found a possible link between a very rare inflammatory heart condition and COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

However, the benefits of mRNA shots in preventing COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks, European and U.S. regulators and the World Health Organization have said.

Here are some of the steps some countries are taking:

CANADA

The Public Health Agency of Canada said data suggested that reported cases of rare heart inflammation were higher after Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine compared with the Pfizer/BioNTech shots.

DENMARK

The Danish Health Agency said on Friday that it was continuing to offer Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to under-18s, and that a statement on Wednesday suggesting a suspension had in fact been a miscommunication.

FINLAND

Finland paused the use of Moderna’s vaccines for younger people and instead would give Pfizer’s vaccine to men born in 1991 and later. It offers shots to those aged 12 and over.

HONG KONG

A panel of health experts advising the Hong Kong government has recommended in September children aged 12-17 should get only one dose of BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of heart inflammation as a side effect.

NORWAY

Norway will hold off giving children aged 12-15 a second dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 until it has gathered more research. On Oct. 22 the health ministry said there was no urgency given that children have a low risk of falling seriously ill from COVID-19.

On Sep. 2 Norway decided on giving one dose of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to children aged 12-15.

SWEDEN

Sweden has extended the pause of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine beyond the original Dec. 1 deadline for people aged 30 and younger due to rare heart-related side-effects, the public health agency said on Oct. 21.

The agency said earlier in October that data pointed to an increase of myocarditis and pericarditis among youths and young adults vaccinated with Moderna vaccine Spikevax, and paused the use for all born 1991 or later.

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa will start vaccinating children between 12 and 17 using the Pfizer vaccine, the health minister said, as the country looks to ratchet up inoculations ahead of final year examinations.

On the advice of its vaccine advisory committee the government would only give teenagers a single shot of Pfizer’s normal two-shot regime due to concerns that it may affect the heart.

UNITED KINGDOM

Britain has been offering all 12-15-year-olds a first a shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Second doses would not be offered to the age group until at least spring when there may be more data from around the world.

 

(Compiled by Antonis Triantafyllou; Editing by Joanna Jonczyk-Gwizdala and Tomasz Janowski)

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Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy undermining financial hub status – industry group

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A financial industry group warned on Monday that Hong Kong‘s zero-COVID policy and strict quarantine requirements for international travellers threatens to undermine the city’s status as a financial hub.

The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) said a survey of members, including some of the world’s largest banks and asset managers, showed 48% were contemplating moving staff or functions away from Hong Kong due to operational challenges, which included uncertainty regarding when and how travel and quarantine restrictions will be lifted.

Hong Kong has some of the most stringent travel restrictions in the world and is virtually COVID-19 free, however unlike regional rival Singapore, which is slowly re-opening its borders, the Chinese-ruled city has no public plan for opening up to international travellers.

Local leaders say their focus is removing restrictions on travel from Hong Kong to mainland China, which also has strict entry restrictions. At present travellers from Hong Kong to the mainland must still undergo quarantine.

“Hong Kong’s status as an (international financial centre) is increasingly at risk along with its long-term economic recovery and competitiveness as a premier place to do business,” Mark Austen chief executive of Asifma wrote in open letter to Hong Kong’s financial secretary Paul Chan.

The letter made a series of recommendations including publishing “a roadmap for exiting Hong Kong’s ‘zero-case’ based COVID-19 strategy beyond solely the immediate goal of opening borders with China”, as well as prioritising vaccinations.

Hong Kong has reported just over 12,300 cases since the start of the pandemic, mostly imported, and 213 deaths.

Regional rival Singapore is expanding quarantine-free travel to nearly a dozen countries, but authorities are grappling with how to do so while averting a surge of Covid-19 cases among older people and those with weak immune systems.

 

(Reporting by Alun John; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Red Cross urges action for Papua New Guinea as COVID-19 overwhelms health system

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Concerted international action is needed to support Papua New Guinea as a surge in COVID-19 cases overwhelms the Pacific country’s health system, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Monday.

Coronavirus cases in the island nation of 9 million have been surging in recent weeks, with 385 new cases recorded on Thursday, according to latest available government data.

There have been 26,731 officially confirmed cases and 329 deaths in the country 150 km (90 miles) north of Australia.

Less than 1% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data figures, although the government anticipated months ago that it would have enough shots by now for everyone who wanted to be vaccinated.

Misinformation, public apprehension, and logistical challenges with the rollout have slowed down vaccinations, the Red Cross said.

“Urgent efforts and further support are needed in healthcare to prevent a massive loss of life in the coming days and weeks,” Uvenama Rova, PNG Red Cross secretary general, said in a statement.

According to the PNG National Control Centre for COVID-19, all major hospitals have been hit with rising cases.

“We’re at the moment barely managing with the existing load,” Gary Nou, team leader for Emergency Medical Team at the National Centre, was quoted as saying last week in a statement on the centre’s website.

A medical team from Australia arrived in Port Moresby this month, and Britain was also to send a team.

While some other nations in the Pacific region, such as the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, have also had sluggish vaccine rollouts, the tiny nation of Palau had 99% of its population over 12 vaccinated by mid-October, while Fiji had 96% of eligible people with one dose, the Red Cross said this month.

 

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by William Mallard)

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