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The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Dec. 31 – CBC.ca

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A girl wearing a mask and 2021 headband looks on at a shopping mall in Bangkok on Thursday ahead of the start of the new year. Countdown celebrations and crowded events were banned amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Ontario’s finance minister resigns after returning from Caribbean vacation

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips has resigned after returning from a controversial Caribbean vacation while the province is under strict lockdown measures that discourage non-essential travel, Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday.

Earlier Thursday morning, upon arrival at Toronto’s Pearson airport, Phillips said he would like to keep his job amid calls for his resignation but would respect Ford’s decision following what the premier said would be a “very tough conversation” between the two.

“Today, following my conversation with Rod Phillips, I have accepted his resignation as Ontario’s minister of finance,” Ford said in a statement. “At a time when the people of Ontario have sacrificed so much, today’s resignation is a demonstration that our government takes seriously our obligation to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

Ford said he has asked Peter Bethlenfalvy to assume the role of minister of finance and deliver the government’s 2021 budget. He said this appointment will “help ensure economic stability in the months ahead, as we support Ontario families, workers and businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we chart our path to long-term economic recovery.”

Soon after Ford’s announcement, Phillips’s office also issued a statement confirming his resignation as minister of finance. “Travelling over the holidays was the wrong decision, and I once again offer my unreserved apology,” Phillips wrote in the statement. He will remain a member of the provincial legislature, representing the riding of Ajax.

Phillips was in Saint Barthélemy, popularly known as St. Barts, since Dec.13 and will quarantine in Ajax for 14 days starting Thursday. He said earlier this week he chose to go ahead with the trip not knowing the province would be placed under lockdown on Boxing Day.

Days after he had departed on his trip, Phillips’s office posted a series of tweets for the minister that could arguably give the impression he was home for the holidays. The posts included a video of Phillips sitting next to a fireplace, thanking Ontarians for protecting the most vulnerable and a previously taken photo of him holding local maple syrup to celebrate National Maple Syrup Day.

In response to this, Phillips said Thursday it is not out of the norm to schedule tweets ahead of time, especially for politicians like himself. “Most politicians pre-program and pre-record a lot of their social media content. I did that to promote Ajax businesses, to promote the COVID-19 supports that we have for small businesses across the province and to wish my constituents a holiday greeting,” he said. “That said, I understand in the circumstances why it seemed insincere. I apologize for that.”

Click below to watch more from The National

Businesses in Dildo, N.L., were hoping for a tourist boom in 2020 after being featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live! But while the pandemic put a damper on plans for this year, there’s still hope for the future. 2:06

IN BRIEF

Ontario and Quebec break records for new COVID-19 cases

Ontario and Quebec reported record-high COVID-19 case numbers again on Thursday, with Ontario becoming the first province in the country to report more than 3,000 cases in a single day.

Ontario reported 3,328 new infections and 56 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 4,530. According to data released by the province, COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 1,235, with 337 patients in intensive care — both also new records.

Ontario hospitals continue to warn that intensive care units are reaching maximum capacity and threatening to overwhelm the wider health-care system. In a statement to CBC Toronto on Wednesday, Anthony Dale, CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said, “Do not celebrate the holidays with people outside your own household. It would be the ultimate tragedy if the worst consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic happened just as vaccines arrived on Canadian soil.”

Quebec, meanwhile, reported 2,819 new cases and 62 additional deaths, for a total of 8,226 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalizations stood at 1,175 with 165 people in the province’s ICUs, according to a provincial dashboard.

New Quebec government modelling indicates that hospitals in the province’s largest metropolitan area, Greater Montreal, are getting perilously full and could run out of capacity for new COVID-19 patients entirely in as little as two or three weeks.

Read more about the situation in Ontario and Quebec

Coronavirus outbreak hits Quebec’s first vaccination site, but it doesn’t mean the vaccine is ineffective, say officials

On Dec. 11, as the Quebec City health region was preparing to administer the first Canadian doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, two residents at the CHSLD Saint-Antoine tested positive for coronavirus. The next day, 15 more did. The people affected were from a single unit and were quickly isolated.

Officials had planned to inoculate the facility’s 230 or so residents partly to test whether the vaccine could inhibit the virus’s spread in an extended-care facility where it wasn’t already present. It now appears that by Dec. 14, the day the first shots were administered, it was too late. More than 80 people at the centre, including 66 residents, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since receiving the first of two vaccine doses.

However, a spokesperson for the local health authority said positive tests and resulting cases of COVID-19 were always likely. According to the evidence from clinical trials, it can take up to two weeks to achieve 50 per cent immunity, and a second dose is required after 21 days to reach 95 per cent. Residents and staff will begin receiving their second dose of the serum beginning Jan. 4.

“We expected there could be more cases among staff and residents who are vaccinated, because they’ve only had one dose of the vaccine,” Mélanie Otis said in an email. According to the health region, 202 residents took the vaccine, along with 125 staff. It seems likely several of them were already infected with the coronavirus when they received the shot, Otis indicated.

In any case, immune responses aren’t typically instantaneous, Dr. Jacques Girard, the medical adviser to Quebec City’s chief public health officer, told Radio-Canada’s Première Heure. “When we give someone a vaccine it’s to protect them,” he said, but he cautioned that it often takes a couple of weeks to develop sufficient antibodies to stave off the virus, meaning that as of this week there should be signs the outbreak at CHSLD Saint-Antoine is starting to recede.

Read more on what the outbreak at CHSLD Saint-Antoine means

Vancouver party host spends Christmas in jail after repeated fines for violating COVID-19 public health orders

A 24-year-old Vancouver man spent Christmas night in jail after repeatedly hosting parties that violated COVID-19 public health orders. Police say they issued multiple warnings and fines to the man before arresting him on Dec. 25 and charging him under Section 99 of the provincial Public Health Act. He was released on Boxing Day.

“Clearly the talks that we were having with him weren’t having the desired effect,” said Sgt. Steve Addison. “This should serve as a reminder to anyone who thinks it’s still OK to ignore the public health order and put other people at risk.”

Addison said the Vancouver Police Department has received a dozen complaints about noise and parties at the man’s downtown apartment since September. He was twice issued $2,300 violation tickets in December. After another loud party on Dec. 18, Vancouver police worked with Crown counsel to obtain an arrest warrant.

The provincial COVID-19 Related Measures Act bans social gatherings of any size inside residences, but allows people who live alone to host two people with whom they regularly socialize.

Read more about Vancouver’s crackdown on COVID rule breakers

(CBC News)

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

THE SCIENCE

I had COVID-19. Do I get the vaccine?

With the recent announcement that Health Canada has approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, the second being made available to the public, Canadians are likely wondering when it will be their turn to get inoculated.

But with the country in the first phase of vaccine rollout, that’s still unclear, with much depending on what they do and where they live. CBC News has put together an explainer here to answer some questions you may have.

As for the issue at hand: There’s not enough information yet to know whether people who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 would need the vaccine for immunology, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease doctor in Toronto and a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.

However, reports of people getting reinfected with COVID-19 as soon as four months after recovering from their previous infection suggest that most people who have recovered from COVID-19 will be eligible for vaccination.

AND FINALLY…

B.C. mom describes ‘surreal experience’ meeting new son after waking up from coma related to COVID-19

Gillian McIntosh and her husband, Dave, celebrate Christmas at home in Abbotsford, B.C., with their two children. She was discharged from hospital on Dec. 24 after spending a month in an induced coma because of COVID-19 complications. (Submitted by the McIntosh family)

A British Columbia mom who gave birth while in an induced coma because of COVID-19 says she was released from hospital just in time to spend Christmas at home with her family.

Gillian McIntosh’s new son, Travis Len, was delivered by emergency C-section in early November after she was admitted to Abbotsford Regional Hospital because of complications related to the novel coronavirus. She was unconscious and on a ventilator when the baby made his first appearance and didn’t meet him until mid-December, when she was eased out of her coma.

In a written statement released Wednesday, McIntosh said she was discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve. She said the opportunity to spend the holidays with her two children and husband, Dave, was “one of the best gifts I have ever received.”

“It’s a very surreal experience to wake from a month-long coma, when the last thing I remember was going to the emergency department having trouble breathing and texting my husband that they were going to keep me in for a few days,” she said. “Waking up, no longer pregnant, but to know our sweet baby boy joined the world and was healthy was such a relief and blessing.”

According to Wednesday’s statement, McIntosh has recovered from her illness more quickly than expected, but the full extent of the damage to her lungs is still unknown, and it’s not certain how long it will take them to heal. She required daily physiotherapy in the hospital to relearn how to walk, and she still needs to use a walker, cane and other mobility aids to get around the house.

Gillian and Dave McIntosh also expressed their gratitude to those who have reached out to offer thoughts, prayers and donations as well as the workers at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. “It takes special people to be able to keep doing what our health-care workers have been doing for so long,” said Dave McIntosh.

Read more about the family’s experience

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.

Coronavirus Brief will take a break on New Year’s Day and return to your inboxes on Jan. 4. Have a happy holiday.

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What is the Delta variant of coronavirus with K417N mutation?

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 India said on Wednesday it has found around 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

Below is what we know about the variant.

WHAT IS DELTA PLUS?

The variant, called “Delta Plus” in India, was first reported in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

It is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation called K417N which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Some scientists worry that the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

“The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property,” India’s health ministry said in a statement.

Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist, said the K417N was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

WHERE ALL IT HAS BEEN FOUND?

As of June 16 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/994839/Variants_of_Concern_VOC_Technical_Briefing_16.pdf, at least 197 cases has been found from 11 countries – Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).

India said on Wednesday around 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first 5 cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the UK and Indian cases.

WHAT ARE THE WORRIES?

Studies are ongoing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s health ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination.”

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council for Medical Research.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Pune, Bhargav Acharya and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru and Alistair Smout in London; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Giles Elgood)

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Colon Cancer Rates Have Increased: How Can You Improve Your Gut Health?

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The majority of colon cancer cases are more common among older citizens. However, research has found that colorectal cancer rates have been rising in healthy people under 50. The rate has increased over the ten years. Medical professionals recommend screening from age 45. A colorectal screening test is done to ensure that the individual does not have any signs of cancer.

A study found that there has been a surge in colorectal cancer in younger generations and could become the dominant cause of cancer-related deaths by 2030. Since the risk is alarming, everyone needs to take their gut health seriously. Here are some things that people can do to improve their well-being.

Consider Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a type of colon cleanse that treats digestive issues such as constipation and bloating. Chronic constipation can lead to colon cancer, so it is vital to deal with the issue before it worsens. Colon hydrotherapy is offered at a few places, including a wellness colonic clinic in Toronto where the staff is committed to providing solutions for their clients’ digestive health.

Cleansing your colon can help improve digestion, relieve constipation, reduce gas, rejuvenate skin, and increase energy. The process involves flushing the colon with a large volume of water. It can be beneficial to speak to the professionals at the clinic and discuss your concerns with them. They will educate you about the process and answer any concerns you may have. The treatment can seem overwhelming but can also be helpful for your gut health.

 

Consume Sensibly

Your food intake plays a significant role in your gut health. If you have gut problems, it may be worthwhile to speak to a doctor and change your diet. You should also consider finding out if you have any food intolerance. There may be trigger foods such as oil or dairy that could be causing discomfort.

Even if you do not have any problems with your food consumption, it is never wrong to watch what you eat. Foods with probiotics or high fibre content can be good for you. Eating the right foods can improve your overall health too.

Stay Hydrated

Water almost seems like a magical drink sometimes. From skin problems to digestive issues, it can improve many situations. Consuming a good amount of water every day can balance good bacteria in the gut and promote your health. Hydration can also help your organs function properly and improve cognitive function.

Say Goodbye to Extreme Stress

It can be challenging to bid farewell to stress forever. However, chronic high levels of stress can impact your abdomen and your overall health. There is a connection between the brain and gut, and stress can cause your stomach to become anxious.

Long-term stress can trigger several gut problems such as indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea. Look for ways to reduce stress levels so that your gut can remain healthy.

Some health problems are inevitable with age, but you can do your best to stay healthy and deal with any issues you face. Prepare yourself to fight any disease beforehand, and your body will thank you.

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Biden’s vaccine pledge ups pressure on rich countries to give more

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The United States on Thursday raised the pressure on other Group of Seven leaders to share their vaccine hoards to bring an end to the pandemic by pledging to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to the world’s poorest countries.

The largest ever vaccine donation by a single country will cost the United States $3.5 billion but Washington expects no quid pro quo or favours for the gift, a senior Biden administration official told reporters.

U.S. President Joe Biden‘s move, on the eve of a summit of the world’s richest democracies, is likely to prompt other leaders to stump up more vaccines, though even vast numbers of vaccines would still not be enough to inoculate all of the world’s poor.

G7 leaders want to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022 to try to halt the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 3.9 million people and devastated the global economy.

A senior Biden administration official described the gesture as a “major step forward that will supercharge the global effort” with the aim of “bringing hope to every corner of the world.” “We really want to underscore that this is fundamentally about a singular objective of saving lives,” the official said, adding that Washington was not seeking favours in exchange for the doses.

Vaccination efforts so far are heavily correlated with wealth: the United States, Europe, Israel and Bahrain are far ahead of other countries. A total of 2.2 billion people have been vaccinated so far out of a world population of nearly 8 billion, based on Johns Hopkins University data.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have agreed to supply the U.S. with the vaccines, delivering 200 million doses in 2021 and 300 million doses in the first half of 2022.

The shots, which will be produced at Pfizer’s U.S. sites, will be supplied at a not-for-profit price.

“Our partnership with the U.S. government will help bring hundreds of millions of doses of our vaccine to the poorest countries around the world as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla.

‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’

Anti-poverty campaign group Oxfam called for more to be done to increase global production of vaccines.

“Surely, these 500 million vaccine doses are welcome as they will help more than 250 million people, but that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the need across the world,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

“We need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said in a statement.

Another issue, especially in some poor countries, is the infrastructure for transporting the vaccines which often have to be stored at very cold temperatures.

Biden has also backed calls for a waiver of some vaccine intellectual property rights but there is no international consensus yet on how to proceed.

The new vaccine donations come on top of 80 million doses Washington has already pledged to donate by the end of June. There is also $2 billion in funding earmarked for the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the White House said.

GAVI and the WHO welcomed the initiative.

Washington is also taking steps to support local production of COVID-19 vaccines in other countries, including through its Quad initiative with Japan, India and Australia.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in St. Ives, England, Andrea Shalal in Washington and Caroline Copley in Berlin; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Keith Weir;Editing by Leslie Adler, David Evans, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Giles Elgood and Jane Merriman)

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