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The Latest: Spain receives 1st batch of coronavirus vaccine – Bowen Island Undercurrent

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LONDON — Tough new coronavirus restrictions have begun in the U.K. with Scotland and Northern Ireland under tighter measures to try to halt a new variant of the virus that is believed to spread more quickly.

Measures that were relaxed for Christmas day in Wales have also been re-imposed.

The number of people under the country’s top level of restrictions — Tier 4 — increased by 6 million on Saturday to 24 million people, around 43% of Britain’s population. No indoor mixing of households is allowed and only essential travel permitted. Gyms, pools, hairdressers and stores selling nonessential goods have been ordered to close.

A further 570 deaths from COVID-19 were reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 70.195. More than 32,700 new cases of the disease were reported on Christmas day.

In her annual Christmas address, Queen Elizabeth II, who has spent much of the year isolating at Windsor Castle with her husband Prince Philip, delivered a heartfelt message of hope praising the “indomitable spirit” of those who have risen “magnificently” to the challenges of the pandemic.

The queen’s address carried added poignancy given the great sadness and upheaval that many families have experienced in the U.K., which has Europe’s second-highest death toll behind Italy.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Belarus dissidents say authorities are deliberately allowing COVID-19 to flourish in the packed jail cells where they have detained thousands of opposition protesters

— Vaccine deliveries roll out across the European Union as the bloc’s 27 nations get ready to kick off their first shots

— After early success in the pandemic, South Korea sleepwalks into a virus crisis

— Black doctor dies of COVID after racist treatment complaints

— Around 1,000 British soldiers are spending Christmas weekend trying to clear a huge backlog of truck drivers stranded at the border in southeast England

— South Africa’ s normally joyful Christmas celebrations are dampened by a spike in new cases and deaths driven by the country’s COVID-19 variant

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MOSCOW — Russia’s Health Ministry has allowed a domestically designed coronavirus vaccine to be given to people older than 60.

Until Saturday’s announcement by Health Minister Mikhail Murashko, the Sputnik V vaccine was cleared for use for people aged 18-60.

Russia has been widely criticized for giving Sputnik V regulatory approval in August after it was tested only on a few dozen people and then rushing to offer it to people in risk groups — such as medical workers and teachers — within weeks of approval. Authorities said this week that more than 300,000 people have received the vaccine even as the advanced studies among tens of thousands of people are continuing.

Sputnik V’s developers have said data suggests the vaccine was 91% effective, a conclusion based on 78 coronavirus infections among nearly 23,000 participants. That’s far fewer cases than Western drugmakers have accumulated during final testing before analyzing how well their vaccine candidates worked.

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BERLIN — The first shipments of coronavirus vaccines have arrived in nations across the European Union as authorities prepared to administer the first shots to the most vulnerable people in a co-ordinated effort on Sunday.

The vaccines developed by BioNTech and Pfizer arrived by truck in warehouses across the continent on Friday and early Saturday after being sent from a manufacturing centre in Belgium before Christmas.

The rollout marks a moment of hope for a region that includes some of the world’s earliest and worst-hit virus hot spots, including Italy and Spain, and others, like the Czech Republic, that were spared the worst early on only to see their health care systems near their breaking points in the fall.

Altogether, the 27 EU member states have seen at least 16 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 336,000 deaths.

“It’s here, the good news at Christmas,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said at a news conference Saturday. “At this moment, trucks are underway across Europe, across Germany and its regions, to deliver the first vaccine. More deliveries will follow the day after tomorrow. This vaccine is the decisive key to end this pandemic.”

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MADRID — Health authorities in Spain have confirmed the first cases of the new variant of the coronavirus that was recently detected in the United Kingdom, causing several European countries to restrict traffic with the British island.

Health authorities for the region of Madrid said Saturday that they have confirmed four cases of the new version of the virus. All four of the infected people are in good health, authorities said.

Regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero said that the new strain had arrived when an infected person flew into Madrid’s airport.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says he is forgoing his public appearances at a window from a Vatican palazzo overlooking St. Peter’s Square to do his part in minimizing crowding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dec. 26 is a holiday at the Vatican and in Italy in honour of St. Stephen, the Catholic church’s first martyr. The day after Christmas would usually find thousands of people flocking to the square to catch the pope’s noontime appearance and admire the Vatican’s towering holiday tree.

Instead, on Saturday, Francis delivered his blessing and remarks from the library of the Apostolic Palace, then acknowledged that the faithful had to resort to television to follow him.

“We have to do it this way to avoid having people coming to the square,’’ Francis said. Eliminating the occasion for crowding “will help us all emerge from this pandemic.”

Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, when all of Italy was put under severe lockdown, Francis lamented that he felt like he “was in a cage” because he couldn’t meet the public.

But lately, as Italy struggles to tamp down a second surge that has claimed more lives than the initial one last spring, Francis has been urging people to comply with government restrictions.

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TOKYO — Tokyo has confirmed 949 new cases of the coronavirus, a new high for the Japanese capital, as the country struggles with an upsurge that is spreading nationwide.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government said Saturday that the additional cases bring the prefectural total to 55,851. Japan had 3,823 new cases Friday for a national total of 213,547, with 3,155 deaths, the health ministry said.

Japan has not been able to slow the infections despite government requests for the people to avoid going out for dinner and parties before and during the holiday season.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has ordered bars to close early and urged residents to avoid nonessential outings. But many people have continued commuting on crowded trains and going out for dinner and drinks.

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CAIRO — Egypt has reported over 1,000 new coronavirus cases, its highest total in months, as authorities appeal to people to stick to preventive measures to avoid a lockdown.

The Health Ministry on Saturday reported 1,113 new cases, as well as 49 deaths.

The new numbers have brought the county’s official tally to more than 130,126 cases, including at least 7,309 deaths.

However, the actual numbers of cases in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous county with over 100 million people, are thought to be far higher, in part due to limited testing.

Authorities have been urging people to stick to preventive measures, particularly wearing face masks and practicing social distancing, to avoid a lockdown that would leave devastating economic consequences.

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BEIJING — China’s capital has urged residents not to leave the city during the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays, implementing fresh restrictions after several coronavirus infections last week.

Two domestic cases were reported on Friday, a convenience store worker and a Hewlett Packard Enterprise employee. Another two asymptomatic cases were discovered in Beijing earlier in the week. Beijing is conducting testing on a limited scale in the neighbourhoods and workplaces where the cases were found.

China has cancelled big gatherings such as sports events and temple fairs. Cinemas, libraries and museums operate at 75% capacity. The government is also discouraging business trips.

Lunar New Year is Feb. 12.

Separately, officials in the northeastern port city of Dalian said they had tested over 4.75 million people for the coronavirus after 24 confirmed infections this month. Authorities have shut schools and all public spaces in five neighbourhoods in Dalian, and only essential workers can leave their compounds.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported another 1,132 coronavirus cases as the resurgence worsened over the Christmas week, putting pressure on the government to enforce stricter distancing controls.

The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the country’s caseload to 55,902. The country added 1,241 cases on Christmas Day, its largest daily increase. Total fatalities stood at 793 after more than 220 COVID-19 patients died in the past 15 days alone as the surge left hospital capacities and medical staff stretched thin.

Around 780 of the new cases were from the greater Seoul area, home to 26 million people. Health workers discovered a large virus cluster in a huge prison with more than 500 inmates and workers. Transmissions in recent weeks have also been tied to hospitals, nursing homes, churches, restaurants and army units.

Government officials restored some social distancing restrictions in recent weeks and are now clamping down on private social gatherings, shutting down ski resorts, restricting hotel occupancy and setting fines for restaurants if they accept large groups.

Officials plan to meet Sunday to determine whether to possibly shutter hundreds of thousands of nonessential businesses.

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PARIS — French health authorities have confirmed the country’s first case of the virus variant that prompted strict new lockdown measures in Britain and global travel restrictions.

A French man living in England arrived in France on Dec. 19 and tested positive for the new variant Friday, the French public health agency said. He had no symptoms and was isolating in his home in the central city of Tours.

Authorities were tracing the person’s contacts and laboratories were analyzing tests from several other people who may have the new variant, the statement said.

Some other European countries have also reported cases of the new variant, which British authorities said appears more contagious and was spreading fast. The British announcement Dec. 19 prompted countries around the world to suspend flights from the U.K. France banned all passengers and cargo from Britain for two days, causing massive traffic problems around the British port of Dover.

France reopened the border but now requires anyone entering from Britain to have a test showing they do not have the new variant.

A second partial lockdown sharply curbed France’s infections, but they have been again on the rise over the past two weeks.

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DALLAS — Coronavirus hospitalizations in Texas on Friday approached a peak equaling the summer’s surge even as health officials warned that holiday gatherings and travel are likely to further spread the virus and pressure health care services.

The state health department reported 10,868 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state on Christmas, less than 30 behind the record high set in July. Intensive care units in several parts of Texas were full or nearly full, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Texas on Friday reported 200 more death from COVID-19. There were 3,123 newly confirmed cases of the virus and another 973 probable cases, according to the health department.

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ATHENS — The first vaccines against the coronavirus have arrived in Greece.

The first 9,750 doses arrived overland, crossing from the Bulgarian border in the north Friday evening, with the van carrying them escorted by six police cars, a video taken at the border shows.

Vaccinations will begin at five Athens hospitals Sunday, with health personnel and elderly residents of nursing homes.

Greece’s president, prime minister and 42 government, military and police officials deemed essential to the functioning of the state, as well as opposition leaders, will also be vaccinated in the first days.

Health authorities announced Friday 617 new infections over the past 24 hours, alongside 50 deaths.

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ROME — For a fourth straight day, Italy’s daily new caseload of confirmed coronavirus infections has climbed higher.

Adding 19,037 COVID-19 cases on Friday, the nation raised its overall tally of confirmed infections in the pandemic to 2,028,354.

The figures from the Health Ministry on Christmas Day included 459 deaths registered since Thursday. That brings the number of known pandemic dead in Italy to 71,359.

As it has had most recently, the northeast Veneto region reported the highest daily caseload, with just over 5,000 confirmed infections registered on Friday.

That’s nearly double the day’s caseload in neighbouring Lombardy, the populous region which has suffered the most deaths and has had the most COVID-19 cases.

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TOKYO — Japan’s Health Ministry has confirmed the country’s first cases of infection with the new variant of the coronavirus that was identified in Britain.

The five people arrived between Dec. 18 and Dec. 21, before Japan stepped up border control on Friday for entrants from Britain. A man in his 60s developed fatigue, but the other four were without symptoms.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said the five were sent to quarantine straight from the airports.

After they tested positive for the virus, further analysis conducted at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases determined they had the British variant that is 70% more transmissible, the ministry said in a statement.

Shigeru Omi, head of the government task force, called for tighter border control to prevent new variants.

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MOSCOW — Russian authorities have ordered those arriving from the U.K. to quarantine for two weeks.

Earlier this week, Russia suspended direct flights from the U.K. after a variant of the coronavirus that is 70% more transmissible has spread across London and parts of England.

The order from the Rospotrebnadzor safety agency posted Friday obliges all those travelling from the U.K. to remain in isolation for 14 days after their arrival in Russia.

Dozens of countries have barred flights from the U.K. or announced travel restrictions. The United States will require airline passengers from Britain to get a negative COVID-19 test before their flight starting Monday.

The Associated Press































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Additional steps Albertans can take as more cases of COVID-19 variants reported – Global News

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Health officials say current public health measures around masking and distancing will protect Albertans against the new variants of the novel coronavirus, but there are some extra precautions that can be taken.

Alberta Health reported Monday that there were 20 cases of the UK variant and five cases of the South African variant in the province; while most were travel-related, there is one case that appears to be the result of community transmission.

READ MORE: U.K. variant of COVID-19 ‘may have entered the broader community’ in Alberta: Shandro

Infectious disease epidemiologist Zahid Butt of the University of Waterloo said people will need to be more vigilant now about following public health guidelines.

“We need to be more careful about distancing now. We need to be more careful about wearing masks. We should be more careful about hand sanitization and other measures,” Butt said.

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The variants can transmit faster between people because of changes to the spike proteins on the virus’s surface, which allows it to enter cells more easily. Higher transmission of the virus means there is the potential for more cases and, with that, the possibility there could be more hospitalizations.

Should people wear two masks?

While some Americans are wearing two masks, Butt said he wouldn’t recommend it.

READ MORE: Officials confirm Canada’s 1st case of South African variant of COVID-19 detected in Alberta

“Currently they just recommend one mask because…it has a better fit, it’s a more comfortable fit,” Butt said, adding he recommends wearing a mask everywhere, even outdoors.

Butt also said that three layers in a mask will protect a person more than a mask with just one layer.

RELATED: COVID-19: Triple-layer masks now recommended, what does that mean for Albertans?

“Additionally if you have a mask which you can actually put in a filter, in addition to your three layers, that will protect you better,” he said.

Infectious disease physician Dr. Stephane Smith agrees, saying she doesn’t think there’s any evidence to suggest wearing two masks is more protective than wearing one.

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Smith said N95 can filter small air particles but those are recommended for those working in hospital settings.

READ MORE: ‘Realistic possibility’ COVID-19 variant from U.K. could be deadlier, researchers say

“For most people in everyday settings, the surgical mask or its equivalent is effective in preventing transmission from larger droplets,” she said.

Smith said wearing masks indoors is very important and wearing masks outdoors is also important if you are going to be in close contact with someone, but she balks at wearing a mask at all times when outdoors.

“If you’re just out for a walk in your neighbourhood and you don’t actually interact with anyone then you probably don’t need to wear a mask at all,” she said.

Should people distance more than two metres?

Albertans have been told to distance two metres from people outside of their household, but Butt said people can take extra precautions and distance more than two metres to be safe.

Should people cut down the time they spend in indoor spaces?

Smith said, at this point, it isn’t clear how well established the new variants are in Alberta but she recommends curbing interactions.

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“If you need to go to the grocery store, go to the grocery store but limiting the amount of time you spend there is still the best suggestion,” she said.

Butt suggests only going out for essential tasks and he also recommends reducing the time spent in closed settings.

What about travel internationally, domestically and within Alberta?

Butt said people should avoid travelling right now, saying this is one way the variant can spread.

“No travelling across provinces and also, if you’re living in an area that’s designated a high-risk area, don’t travel from your high-risk area to a low-risk area,” he said.

READ MORE: Kenney clarifies he doesn’t encourage travel during pandemic despite thinking it’s safe, good for the economy

Smith said international travel right now is a “bad idea” and that the province should monitor what is happening in other provinces.

“If it does appear there are areas of the country that have widespread transmission of the new variant then I think we would have to look at some restrictions of people coming from that particular province,” she said.

READ MORE: Albertans angry over COVID-19 travel scandal, feel consequences came too late

“There have been outbreaks in Ontario related to the new variant. I think this data is emerging. I think we’ll have to keep a close eye on the information that we get from these other provinces to determine what we should be doing about restrictions within Alberta.”

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As for travel within Alberta, Smith said there is an increased risk any time you travel because there are more interactions with people that you wouldn’t normally interact with.

Smith suggests curtailing travel within the province unless it is essential.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Ontario reports 1740 new coronavirus cases, 63 more deaths – thepeakfm.com

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Ontario is reporting 1,740 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the provincial total to 258,700.

Tuesday’s case count is lower than Monday’s which saw 1,958 new infections. On Sunday, 2,417 new cases were recorded and 2,359 on Saturday.

It is also the lowest increase in daily cases since Dec. 13 when 1,677 new cases were reported.

“Locally, there are 677 new cases in Toronto, 320 in Peel and 144 in York Region,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.

The death toll in the province has risen to 5,909 after 63 more deaths were reported.

Read more:
Coronavirus: Toronto hospital nurse who died by suicide remembered as caring, dedicated

Meanwhile, 229,755 Ontarians have recovered from COVID-19 which is about 89 per cent of known cases. Resolved cases increased by 2,261 from the previous day.

There were more resolved cases than new cases on Tuesday.

Active cases in Ontario now stand at 23,036 — down from the previous day when it was 23,620, and down from last Tuesday at 27,615.

The seven-day average has now reached 2,346, down from yesterday at 2,371 and down from last week at 2,893 — showing a downward trend in new cases.

Ontario reported 1,466 people hospitalized with COVID-19 (up by 68 from the previous day), with 383 patients in an intensive care unit (down by 14) and 298 patients in ICUs on a ventilator (up by 15).

The government said 30,717 tests were processed in the last 24 hours. There is currently a backlog of 36,405 tests awaiting results. A total of 9,375,676 tests have been completed since the start of the pandemic.

Test positivity — the percentage of tests that come back positive — for Tuesday was 5.9 per cent, up from Monday at 5.5 per cent, and down from one week ago when it was 6.8 per cent.

As of 8 p.m. Monday, the province has administered 295,817 COVID-19 vaccine doses. There are 83,285 people fully vaccinated with two doses. Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the only two vaccines currently approved in Canada, require two shots.

Here is a breakdown of the total cases in Ontario by gender and age:

  • 126,519 people are male — an increase of 874 cases.
  • 130,723 people are female — an increase of 875 cases.
  • 33,791 people are 19 and under — an increase of 243 cases.
  • 94,667 people are 20 to 39 — an increase of 636 cases.
  • 74,605 people are 40 to 59 — an increase of 497 cases.
  • 37,300 people are 60 to 79 — an increase of 252 cases.
  • 18,288 people are 80 and over — an increase of 110 cases.
  • The province notes that not all cases have a reported age or gender.

The province notes that the number of cases publicly reported each day may not align with case counts reported by the local public health unit on a given day. Local public health units report when they were first notified of a case, which can be updated and changed as information becomes available. Data may also be pulled at different times.

Here is a breakdown of the total deaths related to COVID-19 by age:

  • Deaths reported in ages 19 and under: 2
  • Deaths reported in ages 20 to 39: 22
  • Deaths reported in ages 40 to 59: 222
  • Deaths reported in ages 60 to 79: 1,594
  • Deaths reported in ages 80 and older: 4,068
  • The province notes there may be a reporting delay for deaths.

Read more:
Provinces sitting on millions in COVID-19 funds for long-term care homes: CCPA

Ontario long-term care homes

According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there have been 3,389 deaths reported among residents and patients in long-term care homes across Ontario which is an increase of 24 deaths. Eleven virus-related deaths in total have been reported among staff.

There are 246 current outbreaks in homes, which is a decrease of 10 from the previous day.

The ministry also indicated there are currently 1,164 active cases among long-term care residents and 1,905 active cases among staff — down by 102 cases and down by 105 cases, respectively, in the last day.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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5 more deaths, 94 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Manitoba today – CBC.ca

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Five more deaths and 94 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Manitoba on Tuesday.

This is the first time the daily caseload has been below 100 since Jan. 12, when there were 92 new cases. Prior to that, the province last saw a sub-100 daily count in mid-October.

One of the province’s health regions — Interlake-Eastern — reported zero new cases.

The Winnipeg area has the most new cases of any single health region with 41. The northern region has 36 new cases, while the Prairie Mountain Health region has 15 and the Southern Health region has two.

The total number of deaths in Manitoba due to COVID-19 is now 809.

One of the five new deaths is a woman in her 90s from the Prairie Mountain Health region, who is linked to the outbreak at Fairview Personal Care Home.

The other four deaths are from the Winnipeg area — a man in his 70s, a man in his 80s, a woman in her 80s who is linked to the outbreak at Seven Oaks General Hospital 5U1-3, and a man in his 90s who is linked to the outbreak at Fred Douglas Lodge.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, said today’s low number of new cases — compared to the seven-day average of 170 — “is trending the right way, but we still have a number of people in hospital.”

There are currently 277 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 38 ICU patients.

That shows there “still is a burden on the acute care system,” Atwal said.

While the province is seeing benefits from its aggressive contact tracing, it is unrealistic to think the daily case totals will drop to zero any time soon, he said, but tipped his hat to the Interlake–Eastern region.

“This is a pandemic. This isn’t going away quick,” Atwal said. “We need to do what’s being asked of people to do by public health … to keep our case counts low.

“Every interaction we have has a risk of propagating an infection. The more interactions we have, with the more people, that risk has a multiple on it. That’s where you get that exponential growth.”

The vaccination program will eventually help reduce that exponential risk “but we are still early on, on that vaccine side,” he said.

The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 10.3 per cent provincially and 6.4 per cent in Winnipeg after 1,118 tests were completed on Monday.

The province on Tuesday declared outbreaks over at the Boyne Lodge Personal Care Home in Carman and Health Sciences Centre unit GA4 in Winnipeg.

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