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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Dec. 1 – CBC.ca

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People shop in Milan after the region of Lombardy was downgraded from a red to an orange zone, which have loosened COVID-19 restrictions to allow non-essential shops to open again ahead of Christmas in Italy. (Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters)

Trudeau touts stimulus, but ‘long winter’ looms

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that supports for individual Canadians and businesses will continue to flow into 2021 as things gradually return to normal in the second year of the pandemic, but told CBC’s The Current that there are tough times immediately ahead.

“Even as vaccines begin to arrive, we know that we have to reach a significant percentage of the population before we can start releasing and reducing measures across the country, so it’s going to be a long winter,” he told The Current host Matt Galloway. “We’re going to have to continue to do the things that will keep us safe, but that’s why the economic anxiety that people are feeling is something that we’re there to counter.”

During a news conference outside his residence at Rideau Cottage later in the day, Trudeau called the Liberal government’s recently announced $100 billion stimulus, which represents three to four per cent of GDP, “historic and appropriate.”

“This will be a significant investment to get our economy back on track. And it’s an investment that will make sure no one gets left behind,” he said.

Trudeau touted supports such as rent and wage subsidies, which will continue to “make it a little bit easier.”

Difficult conversations are likely to come next week as Trudeau is set to meet with premiers to discuss health-care transfers and the vaccine rollout. Premiers have been calling for a $28-billion top-up to federal health transfers, but Trudeau was noncommittal on Tuesday as to any specific increases.

Click below to watch more from The National

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks with Rosemary Barton, CBC’s chief political correspondent, about the federal fiscal update and how the government will continue to provide financial support through the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. 3:30

IN BRIEF

Manitoba sees its highest single-day death toll

Manitoba released its latest COVID-19 figures on Tuesday, which included 16 new deaths due to the coronavirus, the single-highest total in a daily report during the pandemic.

November was by far the worst month of the pandemic so far in Manitoba, with record numbers of deaths, hospitalizations and new cases. However, the province saw fewer than 300 new cases in a single day for the first time since Nov. 22, at 283.

The death toll announced Tuesday, which brings the total in the province to 328 in total, included casualties from at least six long-term care facilities, with three residents from one care home in Winnipeg.

An earlier outbreak at a Winnipeg facility that claimed the lives of eight people in under 48 hours will not result in a criminal inquiry, police said on Tuesday.

Winnipeg police officers in personal protective suits were seen entering the Maples Long Term Care Home run by Revera on Nov. 7, the day after multiple paramedics were called to the home to assess a dozen patients in a single night.

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen had previously called an independent investigation into Maples Long Term Care Home and Parkview Place, another Winnipeg care home run by Revera, a for-profit company.

Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba

Ontario school program seeking out asymptomatic cases using PCR tests

Testing of asymptomatic students and staff is occurring at designated schools in Toronto, Peel and York regions and Ottawa — four Ontario regions with a high number of active COVID-19 cases.

The goal of the pilot project is to improve tracking of the coronavirus and prevent transmission within schools, as well as to inform future public health decisions, writes CBC’s Jessica Wong.

A testing blitz in recent days at one Toronto District School Board (TDSB) location in the eastern part of the city saw 14 classes sent home for two weeks. However, the rest of the school will remain open, according to direction from Toronto Public Health.

“What can we do? This is going on everywhere in the world,” said Yaser Nadaf, whose children attend the school. “They try their best, but at the same time they cannot prevent it completely.”

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said the results weren’t a shock.

“While this information is concerning, it really is the information that our public health officials need to know, because it gives them a better snapshot of how many of those asymptomatic people are positive cases of COVID,” said Bird.

Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician and assistant professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, said a targeted program is a useful tool in the fight against the virus, but added that it’s possible there will be more heightened concern for families and schools.

That’s because Ontario is using PCR testing for the program, which detects the genetic material of a virus. Although considered the gold standard in terms of accuracy, the PCR tests are also so sensitive it would “pick up kids who are infectious, as well as kids who were infectious two, four, six weeks ago,” Chagla says.

Read more about the pilot program 

Alberta government tweet reveals that COVID-19 ethnicity data is being collected, though not disseminated

A tweet from Premier Jason Kenney’s issues manager appears to have to put Alberta Health on the defensive over the collection of COVID-19 data based on racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Human rights advocates, anti-racism groups, researchers and social agencies have called for such data to be collected and shared publicly during the pandemic in a number of provinces, including Alberta. But the Opposition took Matt Wolf to task for releasing a snippet of such data in service of what appeared to be a partisan point.

Wolf, Kenney’s aide, tweeted: “Albertans of South & East Asian descent account for just under 20 per cent of COVID-19 cases, but represent only 11 per cent of the population.” Wolf was responding to comments Kenney took some criticism for regarding high caseloads in northeast Calgary, where many immigrants live.

CBC News asked the province last week for specific data after Kenney said on Red FM radio that “we are seeing a very high level of spread in the South Asian community.” Alberta Health provided a written statement saying the information is being collected but is not yet being published, but that the agency “may revisit this in the future when it’s feasible.”

Asked Monday about Wolf’s tweet, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the numbers he cited were “preliminary.”

While Wolf allowed in the same tweet that many factors were likely at play for the high case rates, including type of employment or living in a multigenerational household, Dr. Hakique Virani, a clinical associate professor of public health with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta, said he believes that kind of data should be shared with the public in its entirety.

“We need less confusion and more transparency. And this doesn’t serve either of those purposes,” said Virani.

Read more about the situation in Alberta

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

Janssen seeks Health Canada approval for its COVID-19 vaccine

Janssen Inc., a pharmaceutical subsidiary of U.S.-based multinational Johnson & Johnson, has put forward its vaccine for approval in what Health Minister Patty Hajdu called “a promising development for Canadians.”

It means Health Canada will now have four vaccine candidates overall to evaluate as part of a “rolling review process” that allows companies to submit data from clinical trials even as those trials are still underway. The regulator must approve a vaccine as safe and effective before it can be administered to Canadians.

At a technical briefing with reporters last week, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser said approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine in Canada could come within weeks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and The European Medicines Agency have scheduled meetings this month that could lead to authorization, and Canadian officials have promised that decisions on approval won’t lag greatly compared to other Western nations.

Ottawa announced a deal with Janssen on Aug. 31 to secure up to 38 million doses of the vaccine — which requires only one dose to provide immunity instead of the two that would be necessary for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

AND FINALLY…

The home arena of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is seen on Oct. 7. After a number of fits and starts due to the pandemic, the league is on pause until at least Jan. 3. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League postpones games until 2021

The only one of the three Canadian major junior leagues to open play so far in the 2020-21 campaign is shutting down, at least for a few weeks. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League says it will not hold any games until Jan. 3 because of COVID-19 issues.

The 18-team league has been forced to postpone games regularly in Quebec and the Maritimes since starting the season in early October because of COVID-19 restrictions in the four provinces where it operates.

“The current situation with the pandemic in the regions in which we operate makes it extremely difficult to play games,” QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau said in a statement on Monday. “With the holidays just around the corner, the provinces in the Maritimes have restricted access and travel, while red zone restrictions in Quebec do not permit us to play.”

Several teams in Quebec relocated to Quebec City for multiple games because of restrictions earlier in November, while the temporary disruption to the Atlantic Canada travel bubble announced last week also prevented games from being played in the six-team Maritimes Division. In addition, teams from Sherbrooke and Blainville-Boisbriand dealt with virus outbreaks internally.

Elsewhere in Canada, the Western Hockey League has said it plans to start the season in January, while the Ontario Hockey League has targeted a February opener.

Read the latest sports-related pandemic news here

Find out more about COVID-19

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Read more about COVID-19’s impact on life in Canada, or reach out to us at covid@cbc.ca if you have any questions.

If you have symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus, here’s what to do in your part of the country.

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here

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AMC expects people to return to theaters as vaccine rollout gathers pace

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(Reuters) -AMC Entertainment Holdings said on Thursday its business was expected to improve in the coming months as the mass rollout of COVID-19 vaccines draws moviegoers back to the cinema chain’s theaters.

A strong slate of big-budget movies, including “Fast & Furious” film “F9” and Marvel’s “Black Widow,” in the summer is expected to fuel a rebound in box-office sales after the pandemic-driven slump in 2020.

“We finally can now say that we are looking at an increasingly favorable environment for movie-going and for AMC as a company over the coming few months, Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron said in a statement.

However, the company’s revenue fell to $148.3 million in the quarter ended March 31, from $941.5 million a year earlier, missing a Refinitiv IBES estimate of $153.43 million.

Its net loss shrunk to $567.2 million, or $1.42 per share in the quarter, from a loss of $2.18 billion, or $20.88 per share, a year earlier.

(Reporting by Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

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Drugmakers say Biden misguided over vaccine patent waiver

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By Stephanie Nebehay and Ludwig Burger

GENEVA/FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Drugmakers on Thursday said U.S. President Joe Biden’s support for waiving patents of COVID-19 vaccines could disrupt a fragile supply chain and that rich countries should instead share more generously with the developing world.

Biden on Wednesday threw his support behind waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, angering research-based pharmaceutical companies.

If adopted by the World Trade Organisation, the proposal would invite new manufacturers that lack essential know-how and oversight from the inventors to crowd out established contractors, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) said.

“I have heard many (vaccine makers) talking about ‘our resources are stretched, our technicians are stretched’,” IFPMA Director General Thomas Cueni told Reuters. He warned of a possible free for all if “sort of rogue companies” were allowed to become involved.

Vaccine developers echoed his comments that waiving intellectual property rights was not a solution.

“Patents are not the limiting factor for the production or supply of our vaccine. They would not increase the global production and supply of vaccine doses in the short and middle term,” said Germany’s BioNTech, which aims to supply up 3 billion doses together with Pfizer this year.

BioNTech said it took more than a decade to develop its vaccines manufacturing process and replicating it required experienced personnel and a meticulous technology transfer, among several other factors beyond patents.

Another German company CureVac, which hopes to release trial results on its messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine as early as this month, said patents were not to blame for supply bottlenecks.

“Since mRNA technology has emerged as the key technology in the fight against COVID-19, the world now needs the same raw materials in unfathomable amounts. The biggest problem is how to coordinate this,” a spokeswoman said.

IFPMA’s Cueni said the real bottlenecks were trade barriers, in particular the U.S. Defense Production Act (DPA).

The DPA is a decades-old U.S. law that prioritised procurement orders related to U.S. national defence, but it has been widely used in non-military crises, such as natural disasters.

Cueni said the way to kickstart low-income countries’ vaccination campaigns was for rich countries to donate vaccine, rather than widen eligibility to young and healthy people at home.

Moderna, which on Thursday reported quarterly results, said waiving intellectual property rights would not help to increase supply of its vaccines in 2021 and 2022.

The U.S. drugmaker said last year it would not enforce its vaccine patents. CureVac said on Thursday it would also not enforce its patents during the pandemic and that it knew of no other developer that would.

Italy’s ReiThera which is in late-stage tests on an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, was also critical of patent waivers.

“There is proprietary know-how that has to be transferred by the owner. And then there is the problem with process materials, which at the moment have delivery times of almost a year,” ReiThera’s chief of technology Stefano Colloca said.

In contrast to the industry reaction, the GAVI vaccine alliance, which co-leads the COVAX dose-sharing programme with the WHO and faces major supply constraints, welcomed Biden’s support for waiving intellectual property rights.

(Writing by Ludwig BurgerAdditional Reporting by Emilio Parodi in Milan; editing by Barbara Lewis and Jane Merriman)

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EU supports COVID vaccine patent waiver talks, but critics say won’t solve scarcity

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By Philip Blenkinsop and Carl O’Donnell

BRUSSELS/NEW YORK (Reuters) -The European Union on Thursday backed a U.S. proposal to discuss waiving patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines, but drugmakers and some other governments opposed the idea, saying it would not solve global inoculation shortages.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed willingness to explore a waiver after President Joe Biden on Wednesday promoted the plan, reversing the U.S. position.

“The main thing is, we have to speed this up,” U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Thursday as India battled a devastating COVID-19 outbreak. “None of us are going to be fully safe until … we get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

A patent waiver is “one possible means of increasing manufacture, and access to vaccines,” he said, as the White House denied a split among officials over the waiver idea.

Biden’s administration endorsed negotiations at the World Trade Organization to gain global agreement.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told member states that she “warmly welcomed” the U.S. move. “We need to respond urgently to COVID-19 because the world is watching and people are dying,” she said.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reached for capital letters in a tweet calling Biden’s move a “MONUMENTAL MOMENT IN THE FIGHT AGAINST #COVID19,” and said it reflected “the wisdom and moral leadership of the United States.”

Despite that enthusiasm, drugmakers, who stand to lose revenue if they are stripped of patent rights to COVID-19 vaccines, and other critics found flaws in the proposal.

The complexities of manufacturing means free access to the intellectual property is not enough to immediately increase vaccine production, they said. Moderna waived its patent rights in October, and on Thursday noted the lack of companies able to rapidly manufacture a similar vaccine and secure approval for it.

Combined, Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc have forecast over $45 billion in sales this year for their COVID-19 vaccines.

In the long term, a waiver would discourage pharmaceutical companies from rapidly responding to future global health threats with large research investments, some said.

Germany, the EU’s biggest economic power and home to a large pharmaceutical sector, rejected the idea, saying vaccine shortages were due to limited production capacity and quality standards rather than patent protection issues.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said he shared Biden’s goal of providing the whole world with vaccines. But a government spokeswoman said in a statement that “the protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future.”

Moreover, a waiver would take months to negotiate and require unanimous agreement among the 164 countries in the WTO. Drug companies urged rich countries instead to share vaccines more generously with the developing world.

DOES NOT ADDRESS ‘THE REAL CHALLENGES’

Stock prices for drugmakers largely recovered after initially falling sharply after Biden backed the waiver idea. Moderna was off 1.3% after earlier dropping 12%, and the U.S. shares of its German partner BioNTech SE shed 0.6% after falling as much as 15% earlier. “The bottleneck is neither access nor patents (or price) butsimply that there aren’t enough vials, raw materials, etc tomanufacture it regardless of patents,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said of expanding COVID-19 vaccine production.

The pharmaceutical industry’s main lobbying group, PhRMA, said: “This decision does nothing to address the real challenges to getting more shots in arms, including last-mile distribution and limited availability of raw materials.”

There have been more than 155 million confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide and almost 3.4 million peopled have died for COVID-19, according to a Reuters tally.

But the vast bulk of the 624 million people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Our World in Data website, live in wealthier countries.

The global COVAX vaccine distribution program, led by the WHO and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), that aims to supply vaccines to low-income countries, has so far handed out around 41 million doses.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “very much in favour” of opening up intellectual property. However, a French government official said vaccine shortages was the result of a lack of production capacity and ingredients, not of patents.

“I would remind you that it is the United States that has not exported a single dose to other countries, and is now talking about lifting the patents,” the official said.

The United States has shipped a few million vaccine doses it was not using to Mexico and Canada on loan.

South Africa and India made the initial waiver proposal at the WTO in October, gathering support from many developing countries, which say it will make vaccines more widely available.

Until now, the European Union has been aligned with a group of countries, including Britain and Switzerland – home to large pharmaceutical companies – that have opposed the waiver.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Sabine Siebold in Brussels, additional reporting by Robin Emmott, Francesco Guarascio and John Chalmers in Brussels, Emilio Parodi in Milan, Gwenaelle Barzic in Paris, Emma Farge in Geneva; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt aboard Air Force One, Andrea Shalal in Washington, Carl O’Donnell and Michelle Nichols in New York, and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Writing by Nick Macfie and Cynthia Osterman; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Mark Heinrich and Bill Berkrot)

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