The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
Saskatchewan is reporting 283 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death.
Health officials say the person who died was in their 80s and the province’s death toll from the pandemic sits at 55.
There are more than 4,000 active cases of the virus in the province, many of the infections concentrated in and around Regina and Saskatoon.
Hospitals are treating 126 COVID-19 patients, with 25 of them in intensive care.
The province’s seven-day average of daily cases is 262.
Premier Scott Moe hopes to see a dip in transmission of the virus so more visitation can be allowed in long-term care homes over the holidays.
Manitoba is announcing nine more deaths from COVID-19 and 320 new infections Friday as health officials released new modelling showing the impact of the pandemic on the province.
It shows that three people end up in hospital and one person dies for every 48 cases of COVID-19.
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer, says if no public health measures had been put in place, there would have been up to 1,055 new infections a day by this Sunday.
Daily cases have been tracking between 300 and 500 recently.
Nunavut will look to get the Moderna vaccine once it is available in Canada.
Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says Moderna is preferred because the cold storage and shipping of the Pfizer vaccine is too difficult in Nunavut.
Patterson also announced today fewer than five Nunavut residents with COVID-19 were flown to a Winnipeg hospital this week and are in stable condition.
Patterson would not comment on exactly how many people were in hospital or what communities they come from.
Ottawa is increasing its order of prospective COVID-19 vaccines.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada is exercising its option to obtain another 20 million doses of Moderna’s two-dose candidate, bringing its total order to 40 million in 2021.
That’s expected to be enough to vaccinate almost 20 million people.
Moderna is one of several manufacturers Ottawa has struck deals with for prospective COVID-19 vaccines, which will be delivered in batches.
In early 2021, Canada expects a combined total of six million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, if authorized for distribution.
The group instructing provinces and territories about who should be first in line for COVID-19 vaccines has updated its advice.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says the first doses of authorized vaccines should go to residents and staff of congregate living settings for seniors.
They should also go to older adults starting with people aged 80 and older, then decreasing the age limit to 70 as supply becomes available.
Health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences are also on the list.
Public Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting three new cases of COVID-19.
There are now 27 active cases in the province, for a total of 343 cases since the pandemic began.
Premier Andrew Fury says he will announce the province’s position on the Atlantic travel bubble Monday.
Newfoundland and Labrador withdrew from the arrangement on looser travel restrictions within the region last month.
Nova Scotia is reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19.
Health officials say 11 cases are in the Halifax area, including a case at Citadel High School in Halifax reported late Thursday.
Three cases in the northern health zone are close contacts of other cases, and one case in the western zone is related to travel.
A case has also been identified at Park West School, a primary to Grade 9 school in the health zone that includes Halifax.
Nunavut is reporting eight new cases of COVID-19.
The territory says all the new infections are in Arviat.
The community on the western edge of Hudson Bay now has 44 active cases.
Nunavut mostly lifted a two-week lockdown earlier this week but restrictions remain in Arviat where numbers are highest.
Public Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting eight new cases of COVID-19.
There is one new case in the Moncton region, two in the Saint John region, one in the Fredericton area and four in the Edmunston region.
All the individuals are self-isolating and their cases are under investigation.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick is 528 with 111 currently active.
There are 1,780 new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario today and 25 more deaths linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 633 new cases in Toronto, 433 in Peel and 152 in York Region.
She says that the spread of COVID-19 has “hit a critical point.”
The minister is asking Ontarians to wear masks and remain physically distant from each other.
The Quebec government is reporting 1,345 new COVID-19 cases and 28 additional deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.
The Health Department says of the five of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours.
The number of hospitalizations has increased by 24 for a total of 761 with 97 people in intensive care.
The province has reported a total of 147,877 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,183 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.
The Canadian Press
Made-in-Canada coronavirus vaccine starts human clinical trials – CBC.ca
A made-in-Canada vaccine to protect against COVID-19 began human clinical trials Tuesday in Toronto, says the biotechnology company that developed the vaccine.
Toronto-based Providence Therapeutics said three shots will be given to 60 adult volunteers at a clinical trial site in Toronto in the first phase of the trial on Tuesday.
Fifteen of those volunteers will receive a placebo, and 45 will get the vaccine, called PTX-COVID19-B.
Brad Sorenson, the company’s CEO, said it’s the first time a vaccine designed and manufactured in Canada has begun clinical trials. The company has purchased a site in Calgary to mass produce the vaccine.
Vaccines are designed to trigger an immune response in the body. Providence’s product is an mRNA vaccine and is similar to the Moderna coronavirus shot being given to people across Canada.
Quebec-based pharmaceutical Medicago began clinical trials last July of its coronavirus vaccine that is based on another technology. Unlike Providence, a large portion of Medicago’s vaccine doses will be manufactured outside the country, in North Carolina.
Medicago’s vaccine is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials — the last stage before it can apply for approval from Health Canada and other regulators to market the product.
Sorenson said Providence designed and built its vaccine last March.
“We reached out to the Canadian government in April and said, ‘Hey, you’ve heard of Moderna. We’re doing the exact same thing,'” Sorenson said in an interview.
“We went from concept into the clinic in under a year without the same level of support as our peers had.”
Purchased Calgary site
The federal government provided financial sponsorship and support for the early phase clinical trial through the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program.
Currently, Canada lacks the capacity to manufacture the millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines needed to immunize people outside of a clinical trial setting. It’s why the federal government struck deals with Pfizer and Moderna — both manufactured abroad — to obtain the vaccines being rolled out across Canada.
While the company was developing the vaccine in pre-clinical studies, Sorenson said it also started to build the infrastructure to manufacture the vaccine in Canada as well.
The company purchased a 20,000-square-foot facility in Calgary that includes 12,000 square feet of lab space to mass produce the vaccine. The facility will be up and running in two months, Sorensen said.
Pending regulatory approval, a larger Phase 2 trial with adults over 65, youths under 18 and pregnant people could start in May, Sorenson said.
Initial focus was cancer research
If the vaccine proves safe and effective in clinical trials and Health Canada approves it, the goal is to have it ready for the global market by January 2022.
Sorenson founded Providence Therapeutics in 2013 to focus on cancer vaccines.
Several scientists contributed to the pre-clinical research on Providence’s vaccine, including those at the lab of Dr. Mario Ostrowski, a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and an infectious disease clinician at St. Michael’s Hospital, Dr. Anne-Claude Gingras at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Dr. Samira Mubareka and Dr. Rob Kozak at Sunnybrook Research Institute, as well as Dr. Michael Pollanen, Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist.
In August, Ostrowski, whose laboratory performed the animal trials, said results were on par with tests of vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech at that stage.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca
The European Union on Tuesday warned pharmaceutical giants that develop coronavirus vaccines to honour their contractual obligations after slow deliveries of shots from two companies hampered the bloc’s vaunted vaccine rollout in several nations.
The bloc already lashed out Monday at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, accusing it of failing to guarantee the delivery of coronavirus vaccines without a valid explanation. It also had expressed displeasure over vaccine delivery delays from Pfizer-BioNTech last week.
“Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines. To create a truly global common good,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum’s virtual event in Switzerland. “And now, the companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations.”
The statement Tuesday highlighted the level of distrust that has grown between the 27-nation bloc and pharmaceutical companies over the past week.
On Monday, the EU threatened to impose strict export controls on all coronavirus vaccines produced in the bloc to make sure that companies honour their commitments to the EU.
The EU said it provided €2.7 billion (more than $4.1 billion Cdn) to speed up vaccine research and production capacity and was determined to get some value for that money with hundreds of millions of vaccine shots according to a schedule the companies had committed to.
“Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good, but it also means business,” von der Leyen said Tuesday via video link.
Germany was firmly behind von der Leyen’s view.
“With a complex process such as vaccine production, I can understand if there are production problems — but then it must affect everyone fairly and equally,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn told ZDF television. “This is not about EU first, it’s about Europe’s fair share.”
The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political clout of the world’s biggest trading bloc, is lagging badly behind countries like Israel and Britain in rolling out coronavirus vaccine shots for its health-care workers and most vulnerable people. That’s despite having over 400,000 confirmed virus deaths since the pandemic began.
The EU has committed to buying 300 million AstraZeneca doses with an option on 100 million extra shots. Late last week, the company said it was planning to reduce a first contingent of 80 million to 31 million.
The shortfall of planned deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is expected to get medical approval by the bloc on Friday, combined with hiccups in the distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech shots is putting EU nations under heavy pressure. Pfizer says it was delaying deliveries to Europe and Canada while it upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase production capacity.
The European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine Friday and its approval is hotly anticipated. The AstraZeneca vaccine is already being used in Britain and has been approved for emergency use by half a dozen countries, including India, Pakistan, Argentina and Mexico.
The delays in getting vaccines will make it harder to meet early targets in the EU’s goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of its adults by late summer.
The EU has signed six vaccine contracts for more than two billion doses, but only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use so far.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:15 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
WATCH | Inside two Toronto ICUs one year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case:
As Parliament resumed Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced a barrage of questions from MPs of all parties as they blasted the Liberal government for what they described as a botched approach to rolling out vaccines.
Both Trudeau and Procurement Minister Anita Anand repeated the government’s promise that by the end of September, all Canadians wishing to be vaccinated will have received their shots.
Trudeau has stressed that the delay that is currently hampering vaccination efforts is only temporary and that Canada is expected to receive four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of March. The prime minister noted that the country is still receiving shipments of the Moderna vaccine.
Earlier Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said there is “tremendous pressure” on the global supply chain for vaccines that the government has tried to mitigate.
“We are working on this every single day, because we know how important vaccines are to Canadians, to first and foremost the lives of Canadians and also to our economy,” she told a news conference in Ottawa by video.
WATCH | New urgency for vaccinations in long-term care homes:
Despite the vaccine delay, some provinces continued to report encouraging drops in the number of new cases and hospitalizations. Ontario reported fewer than 2,000 cases on Monday, as well as fewer people in hospital. It was a similar story in Quebec, where hospitalizations dropped for a sixth straight day.
As of early Tuesday morning, Canada had reported 753,011 cases of COVID-19, with 62,444 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 19,238.
In Alberta, health officials reported the province’s first case of a COVID-19 variant first seen in the United Kingdom that can’t be directly traced to international travel. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said that while it is one case, the variant has the potential to spread faster than the original novel coronavirus and could quickly overwhelm hospitals if not checked.
“There’s no question that this kind of exponential growth would push our health-care system to the brink,” Shandro told a virtual news conference Monday.
Here’s a look at what’s happening across Canada:
–From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 6:45 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 99.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 55.1 million of the cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.1 million.
In Europe, the U.K. is set to announce changes to its quarantine rules later Tuesday that could see anyone arriving in the country having to spend ten days in a hotel at their own expense. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said there will be an “announcement on this issue later on today,” but would not be drawn on what the changes would entail.
The British government has been reviewing its quarantine policies amid concerns over new variants of the coronavirus. Whether the changes will be universal and apply to everyone arriving, including British citizens, or just to those arriving from high-risk coronavirus countries, is unclear. Zahawi told Sky News that “as we vaccinate more of the adult population, if there are new variants like the South African or the Brazilian variants, we need to be very careful.”
The U.K. has seen more than 3.6 million reported cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University, with more than 98,700 deaths.
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, said Monday that Canada is considering additional international travel restrictions. Speaking on CBC’s Power & Politics, Freeland said she is, “very sympathetic to the view that, with the virus raging around the world, we need to be sure our borders are really, really secure.”
In Portugal, the health minister said authorities are considering asking other European Union countries for help amid a steep surge in COVID-19 cases. Portugal has had the world’s worst rate of new daily cases and deaths per 100,000 people for the past week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Health Minister Marta Temido said sending patients to other EU countries is not uncommon in the bloc. But, she said, Portugal has the disadvantage of being geographically remote and hospitals across the continent are under pressure from the pandemic. She said the country may instead be asking for medical workers to be sent.
Portuguese hospitals are under severe strain, Temido told public broadcaster RTP. “We have beds available,” she said. “What we’re struggling with is finding staff.”
That request may be difficult to fulfil, because all countries in the 27-nation bloc are dealing with their own pandemic strains, made more difficult now because of the emergence of virus variants.
In the Asia-Pacific region, health authorities in Taiwan are quarantining 5,000 people while looking for the source of two new coronavirus cases linked to a hospital.
Indonesia’s confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began crossed one million on Tuesday and hospitals in some hard-hit areas were near capacity.
Indonesia’s Health Ministry announced that new daily infections rose by 13,094 on Tuesday to bring the country’s total to 1,012,350, the most in Southeast Asia. The total number of deaths reached 28,468.
The milestone comes just weeks after Indonesia launched a massive campaign to inoculate two-thirds of the country’s 270 million people, with President Joko Widodo receiving the first shot of a Chinese-made vaccine. Health-care workers, military, police, teachers and other at-risk populations are being prioritized for the vaccine in the world’s fourth-most populous country.
Chinese airlines are offering refunded tickets as the coronavirus continues to spread in the country’s northeast. The offer Tuesday from the government’s aviation authority comes amid a push to prevent people travelling during the Lunar New Year holiday next month.
In the Americas, Mexico’s death toll passed 150,000 on Monday following a surge in infections in recent weeks.
In Africa, Russia and China have approached Zimbabwe about supplying vaccines to tackle its escalating COVID-19 outbreak amid concern about Harare’s ability to afford the shots.
In the Middle East, Oman said earlier this week it will extend the closure of its land borders for another week until Feb. 1.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7:10 a.m. ET
Five big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19 – CTV News
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Canadian Press interviewed a group of leading Canadian experts in disease control and epidemiology and asked them what should be done to reduce the harms the next time a germ with similar destructive potential emerges. Here are the five most important lessons they offered.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND HEALTH INEQUITIES HAVE MADE SOME PEOPLE MORE VULNERABLE
COVID-19 has exposed fault lines in the Canadian society by showing how long-standing inequities contributed to higher rates of infections and mortality, said Steffanie Strathdee, a Toronto-born epidemiologist at the University of California in San Diego.
“The people who are, by and large, getting COVID are people who are poor, or of-colour, or living in poor socio-economic conditions,” Strathdee said.
In an analysis of COVID-19 deaths between March and July, Statistics Canada found that death rates because of the virus were double in Canadian neighbourhoods where more than 25 per cent of the people are members of visible minorities compared to neighbourhoods where minorities are less than one per cent of the people.
Strathdee said people in many areas in Canada have limited health services.
“In my sister and mother’s region of Stouffville (a suburb of Toronto), it’s very, very difficult to get a doctor,” she said.
“What we need to do is invest in our public health and health care infrastructure, because this isn’t going to be the last pandemic we see.”
University of British Columbia professor Erica Frank, a doctor and population-health expert, said almost all those who have died because of COVID-19 had pre-existing risk factors, including age.
“Not paying enough attention to reduction of chronic-disease risk has greatly increased the cohort of susceptible people to COVID,” she said.
She said there is a need to spend money on public health systems and on social determinants of health, such as housing, to decrease sickness and death.
CANADA’S DIVISION OF HEALTH-CARE RESPONSIBILITIES IS INEFFICIENT
The disconnect between federal and provincial or territorial actions to fight the pandemic is getting in the way of an effective response, said Donald Sheppard. He’s the chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the faculty of medicine at McGill University and a member of Canada’s COVID-19 therapeutics task force.
For instance, Sheppard said, after Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody treatment was approved by Health Canada, bought by the federal government and greenlit by the federal therapeutics task force, British Columbia health authorities decided to reject the federal approval of the medication.
He said there many more examples, including the handling of long-term care homes.
“Quebec is screaming they want money but they’re refusing to sign on to the minimum standards of long-term care,” he said.
He said there have been poor communication and a lot of territorialism since the beginning of the pandemic.
“There should be a time when it’s all hands on deck and we don’t play games,” he said. “That didn’t happen. We saw these fragmentations between the provinces and the feds leading to, frankly, people dying.”
CENTRALIZED DECISION-MAKING IN HEALTH CARE STIFLES INNOVATION
Sheppard said the Canadian health care system can’t be nimble because federal and provincial governments have seized control of decisions on how to handle the pandemic.
“During a new disease like a pandemic, when we’re learning about things, the people on the ground actually are learning a lot faster than the people sitting in Ottawa, Quebec City or Toronto,” he said.
He said Canadian businesses and universities have been struggling to get approval for testing strategies that use rapid tests to reopen safely.
“The way that the ministries of health are set up, they actually make it incredibly difficult to set those type of things up, because they hold on to all the power with a stranglehold.”
Sheppard said there’s no process private entities can use to launch innovative testing programs.
“The dogma from the ministries of health are simple: What we’re doing is right. There is no other better way to do anything … therefore we will not help anybody do anything different than what we’re doing. And anything other than that is a threat to our authority,” he said. “That’s the mentality, and it’s just killed innovation in the health-care setting.”
LACK OF COORDINATION STYMIED RESEARCH
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how crucial research is to inform health decisions, said Francois Lamontagne, a clinician-scientist at the University of Sherbrooke.
He said Canadian scientists have played prominent roles scientifically during the pandemic but recruiting patients to participate in clinical trials has been a challenge due to lack of coordination.
“There have been a lot of studies launched. A lot of those studies overlapped,” he said.
He said having too many studies at the same time has resulted in shortages of suitable patients who are willing to be subjects in clinical trials.
“This, essentially, dilutes all of the studies and you end up enrolling very few people in too many studies.”
Lamontagne said the United Kingdom has been the locomotive of the world in enrolling patients in clinical trials because research is an integral part of the country’s national health system.
“It’s not something that happens in a silo. It’s part of the (National Health Service),” he said. “This led them to build the infrastructure … And then there’s an effort to co-ordinate and prioritize studies so they do one study and they do it well and they get the answers very quickly.”
He said creating better research infrastructure and coordination should be a priority for Canada.
“This is a criticism directed at me as well. I am part of ‘us’ — researchers. We have to get our act together and there has to be an effort of coordination.”
Lamontagne said health research in Canada is largely funded by the federal government whereas health care is a provincial jurisdiction and both levels need to co-operate.
“The stakes are so important for not only how we respond to pandemics now and in the future, but also for the sustainability of a public health-care system,” he said.
GOOD MESSAGING AND COMMUNICATION MATTER
Strathdee said good science communication with the public is important to address misinformation regarding the novel coronaviruses and its vaccines.
“We need for people to understand that science and medicine don’t have all the answers all the time, that we’re learning just like everybody else,” she said.
Strathdee said guidelines will be updated as more data become available and that’s what happened when more data showed that face masks reduced the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
She said government officials should be trained in health literacy.
John Brownstein, a Montreal-born Harvard University epidemiologist, said minority communities, including Indigenous communities, tend to have more mistrust in vaccines and for good historical reasons.
“We got to figure out how to improve communication and improve confidence,” he said.
Strathdee said it’s critical for politicians and public health officials to be honest with the public by “making people aware that, you know, it could get worse before it gets better, and that they need to stay the course.”
She also said people need to understand that if segments of the population are left behind in vaccination, like prisoners and homeless people, that will put everyone at risk.
She said Canada did a good job in detecting COVID-19 cases because it was hit hard by SARS.
“We have to make sure that we don’t unlearn those lessons going forward and that we build upon what we’ve learned from COVID and prepare for the next pandemic.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2020
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
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