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Theresa Tam urges Thanksgiving caution amid recent rise in cases of COVID-19 – The Globe and Mail

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Canada’s top public health officer is urging people to plan ahead to make sure this year’s Thanksgiving holiday is safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Theresa Tam says indoor gatherings should be kept small, especially in parts of the country where infection rates are high.

She says people celebrating outdoors should follow physical distancing guidelines and encouraged people to avoid sharing food and other objects during their meals.

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Tam is also suggesting that Canadians opt for virtual Thanksgiving dinners instead of in-person gatherings.

Tam’s suggestions come as new COVID-19 case numbers surge in several parts of the country, most notably Quebec and Ontario.

Quebec reported more than 1,000 new diagnoses for the third straight day on Sunday, while Ontario has recorded more than 500 cases every day for the past week.

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Coronavirus: First COVID vaccines 'likely to be imperfect' and 'might not prevent infection', says taskforce boss – Sky News

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The chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce has said the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines “is likely to be imperfect” and that they “might not work for everyone”.

Writing in The Lancet, Kate Bingham said no vaccine in the history of medicine “has been as eagerly anticipated” and that “vaccination is widely regarded as the only true exit strategy from the pandemic that is currently spreading globally”.

But she cautioned against over-optimism and that any vaccine might not work for everyone, or for very long.

“We do not know that we will ever have a vaccine at all,” she wrote. “It is important to guard against complacency and over-optimism.

“The first generation of vaccines is likely to be imperfect, and we should be prepared that they might not prevent infection but rather reduce symptoms, and, even then, might not work for everyone or for long.”

The Vaccine Taskforce was created by Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific advisor. It was set up under the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in May 2020, and Ms Bingham reports directly to the prime minister.

In her Lancet article she said that the “strategy has been to build a diverse portfolio across different formats to give the UK the greatest chance of providing a safe and effective vaccine, recognising that many, and possibly all, of these vaccines could fail”.

More from Covid-19

Ms Bingham’s article came as a review of coronavirus vaccine research called for a standardised approach to assessing the effectiveness of all potential COVID-19 inoculations.

Publishing their conclusions in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, researchers from the University of Oxford said a meaningful comparison of different candidates is required to ensure only the most effective vaccines are deployed.

Dr Susanne Hodgson, of the University of Oxford, who is the lead author of the review, said: “It is unlikely that we will see a single vaccine winner in the race against Covid-19.

“Different technologies will bring distinct advantages that are relevant in different situations, and additionally, there will probably be challenges with manufacturing and supplying a single vaccine at the scale required, at least initially.

“Taking a standardised approach to measuring the success of vaccines in clinical trials will be important for making meaningful comparisons, so that the most effective candidates can be taken forward for wider use.”

There are more than 200 vaccine candidates in development around the world, with 44 in clinical trials.

Of the 44, nine are in the phase three stage of clinical evaluation and are being given to thousands of people to confirm safety and effectiveness.

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South Korea begins preliminary review of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine candidate – The Guardian

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SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s food and drug ministry said on Tuesday it had begun a preliminary review of a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca PLC for potential fast-track approval.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said in a statement that it had formed a screening team to review the vaccine candidate, with an application for formal approval expected in 90 days under its rapid approval programme for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

The team is reviewing the vaccine’s non-clinical test data, the ministry said.

The ministry added that it had given a green light to some 26 clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines as of Monday, by entities such as pharmaceutical companies Celltrion Inc and Genexine Inc, with seven completed and 19 ongoing.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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COVID-19 'blind spots': The workplace lunchroom found to be source of viral transmission, top doc says – CTV News Ottawa

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OTTAWA —
As the COVID-19 pandemic grinds on, public health officials continue to urge residents to be cautious about the risk of viral spread, especially in relaxed settings with friends or family.

While regulations are in place governing mask use in public spaces and gathering spots like bars and restaurants are closed, Ottawa’s top doctor says there is still a risk outside of those places.

“Watch your blind spots,” said Dr. Vera Etches at a press conference on Tuesday. “Data collected during our case management process is indicating that we also have significant blind spots in situations that are not covered by provincial or municipal regulations, like crowd gathering limits or the mandatory mask by-law.”

Some of the so-called “blind spots” includes gathering with extended family or larger friend circles and thinking the risk of transmission isn’t there. Carpools without masks and social gatherings before and after sports were other examples.

Dr. Etches did not have any immediate data to compare the rate of transmission in these “blind spots” versus other kinds of high-risk activities or places, but stressed that close contact is the main driver of spread.

“Transmission of COVID-19 will occur in any setting if given the opportunity and the risk is there whenever people are less than two metres from each other and not wearing masks,” she said.

One particular source of transmission stands out: lunch.

“Employees having lunch together seems to be something that comes up over and over again as a source of outbreak,” Dr. Etches said. “It’s this idea that when we’re with our colleagues or our friends, we relax and it’s okay and think the risk isn’t there and that’s just not true. It is what gives the virus the opportunity to spread.”

In these cases, it’s recommended colleagues sit at least two metres apart during shared lunch breaks and wear masks when socializing.

While the message Tuesday was about individual actions, Dr. Etches also acknowledged the stress many people have been under during the pandemic.

“This is no one’s fault. This is a virus that is often present when people don’t know it. People have no symptoms or very mild symptoms they might not realize are COVID-19,” she said. “That’s why we need the distance between each other and we need to wear masks. The lunch is particularly challenging because we need to take off our masks to eat but even if you’re with your colleagues, that’s a risk.”

Daily case counts in Ottawa have been decreasing compared to earlier in the month, when there were several days of triple-digit increases. Dr. Etches says it shows people are largely doing the right thing to limit spread of the virus.

“I want to say congratulations to the people of Ottawa. There is some encouraging indication that we’re having some success in decreasing COVID in our community,” Dr. Etches said. “The rapid rise in people testing positive has changed. I want to encourage people to do what has been making a difference, that is, limiting our contacts with people outside our household.”

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