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Today's coronavirus news: Human clinical trials begin for Quebec-made COVID-19 vaccine candidate; India's cases jumped by another 28000 and are fast approaching 1M – Toronto Star

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KEY FACTS

  • 5:35 a.m.: Pence heads to Louisiana amid renewed surge in virus cases

  • 5:25 a.m.: Another spike brings India near 1 million cases

  • 5:15 a.m.: Health-care workers to announce political action in response to emergency orders

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

8:05 a.m. Canadian trials have just begun for a prospective COVID-19 vaccine but its Quebec-based manufacturer is already downplaying its potential impact.

Dr. Bruce Clark, president and CEO of the biopharmaceutical company Medicago, cautions observers against holding unrealistic expectations that his product — or any of the numerous vaccines in development globally — will bring the pandemic to a screeching halt.

“Whatever vaccine we get in this first round — unless it’s a miracle — it’s not going to be perfect,” says Clark, whose company began trials for its proposed vaccine Monday in Quebec City.

“It’s going to have to undergo development, it’s going to take probably years to come up with an understanding of the right vaccine, the right approach. It’s not the panacea.

“To assume that we can have, in 18 months, the solution to a pandemic that comes around once in a generation, is naive.”

So much is still unknown about COVID-19, notes Clark, including how it may manifest during the flu season later this year.

He suspects a more likely scenario is that a vaccine will offer only part of the solution, along with new therapeutics and ongoing public health interventions.

Medicago’s first phase of clinical trials will test a plant-based product on 180 healthy men and women, aged 18 to 55.

The randomized, partially blinded study uses technology that does not involve animal products or live viruses like traditional methods.

Clark notes that vaccine developers typically use chicken eggs to propagate a virus, but Medicago uses recombinant technology involving the genetic sequence of a virus, with living plants as the host.

The resulting virus-like particles mimic the shape and dimensions of a virus, which allows the body to recognize them and spark an immune response.

Clark says the plant-based approach is significantly faster and offers more consistent results than egg-based or cell-based methods.

While it takes five to six months to propagate a virus in eggs, the plant-based technique requires just five to six weeks, he says.

“In a pandemic, something like COVID, if you’re able to cut that much time off development, you have a substantial impact on public health.”

7:19 a.m. China is pushing harder to make territorial claims in the regional seas and even using the coronavirus pandemic to expand its influence and take strategic superiority, posing a greater threat to Japan and the region, Japan’s government said.

The report highlighting the government’s defence priorities was adopted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet on Tuesday, less than a day after the Trump administration rejected outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea in a statement likely to deepen the U.S.-China rift.

The Abe government’s Defence White Paper 2020 highlights what are potential Chinese and North Korean threats as Japan tries to further increase its defence capability. Under Abe, Japan has steadily increased its defence budget and capability and purchased costly American arsenals.

Defence Minister Taro Kono recently scrapped the deployment of a pair of costly U.S. land-based missile intercepting systems due to technical issues, and Abe quickly announced his intention to revise Japan’s defence guidelines, possibly allowing Japan to go beyond its conventional defence-only role under the Japan-U.S. security alliance, including discussing a possibility of acquiring a preemptive strike capability.

The White Paper accused China of using propaganda, including spreading disinformation, about the spread of the coronavirus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic may expose and intensify strategic competition among countries intending to create international and regional orders more preferable to themselves and to expand their influence,” the report said. “We need to closely watch their move with serious concern affecting the national security.”

6:10 a.m. Britain’s government will demand people wear face coverings in shops as it seeks to clarify its message after weeks of prevarication amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to tell the House of Commons on Tuesday that anyone failing to comply with the order could face a fine. The order comes into effect on July 24, giving shops and the police time to prepare.

Many European nations, including Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece, already require masks to be worn in enclosed spaces.

Britain, which has reported one of the world’s highest numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths, had taken a more relaxed attitude, recommending masks but not requiring them — at least until now.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who in the spring spent a week in the hospital being treated for COVID-19, had not been seen in public in a mask until last week. On Monday morning, he urged people to wear them. Monday evening, his government announced it would be compulsory.

5:35 a.m.: Vice-President Mike Pence travels Tuesday to Louisiana, which has re-emerged as one of the nation’s hot spots for the coronavirus only months after seeming to contain its outbreak.

The Republican vice-president was scheduled to meet with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, members of the congressional delegation and state health officials to talk about the state’s response to the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus.

Pence’s visit comes as Louisiana’s confirmed virus cases, percentage of positive tests and COVID-19 patient hospitalization rates are surging — worrying public health experts about the level of virus spread in a state that previously appeared successful in combating its outbreak.

“Louisiana has been on the radar, literally front and centre, of the White House Coronavirus Task Force since the very beginning. We’ve never come off of that radar,” Edwards said. “I think that’s a big reason why the vice-president chose to come to Baton Rouge and to Louisiana.”

5:32 a.m.: China said the number of people in treatment for COVID-19 in the country has fallen to just 297, with only three new cases of coronarvirus reported, all brought from outside the country.

No new deaths were announced, leaving the total at 4,634 out of 83,605 cases of the disease.

A pair of experts from the World Health Organization were in China on Monday to make arrangements for an investigation into how the pandemic may have spread after the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

5:28 a.m.: Australia’s Queensland state is toughening the punishment for those who break coronavirus quarantine rules. Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the current fines for breaking a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for some visitors or lying about their whereabouts may not be a sufficient penalty.

The maximum penalty will now be a higher fine or up to six months’ imprisonment.

Queensland reopened its borders to all but Victoria state residents two weeks ago. Victoria is the centre of Australia’s recent outbreak, adding 270 new infections overnight to its more than 4,000 active cases.

5:25 a.m.: India’s number of coronavirus cases jumped by another 28,000 on Tuesday and are fast approaching 1 million.

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The 28,498 cases reported in the past 24 hours took the national total to 906,752. Cases have jumped by 100,000 in four days.

The Health Ministry also reported another 553 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 23,727.

India has largely lifted its nationwide lockdown, and the virus has been spreading at a significant rate, prompting several big cities to impose partial lockdowns.

India is the third worst-affected country in terms of infections, only behind the United States and Brazil.

5:22 a.m.: Pakistan announced Tuesday it would resume vaccinations against polio next week, months after the drive against this crippling children’s disease was halted because the novel coronavirus had overwhelmed the country’s health system.

The anti-polio campaign would last three days, from next Monday, with the plan to have about 800,000 children vaccinated, the officials said. Police departments have received requests to ensure the safety of the polio workers.

5:20 a.m.: The British Columbia government is expected to give a financial update today on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected its residents, businesses and the economy.

Finance Minister Carole James says the pandemic has created “profound” challenges for people in B.C. and around the globe, fundamentally changing the ways people live and work.

She says the update will provide a summary of those impacts and outline the supports government has put in place and will continue to provide.

5:15 a.m.: A union representing Ontario health-care workers says it will announce “political action” this morning in response to the province potentially extending its emergency powers.

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, a division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, will be making the announcement at Hamilton General Hospital.

A spokeswoman for the union confirms that 98 per cent of its membership voted in favour of some form of political action over the weekend.

The Progressive Conservative government introduced a bill last week that would allow it to keep some emergency measures in place in the months ahead.

4 a.m.: A new poll suggests Canadians are torn on whether the federal government should turn off the spending taps to keep the resulting deficit from flooding the nation’s future.

The Leger/Association for Canadian Studies survey found 41 per cent think that COVID-19 support programs and payments must immediately be scaled back.

Forty-four per cent think the payments to Canadians and businesses ought to continue even with the $343-billion projected deficit.

The poll suggests 78 per cent are worried about that bottom-line figure, and 60 per cent think the way out of the hole is to cut government spending, while 21 per cent say raising taxes is the solution.

The poll surveyed 1,523 Canadians between July 10 and 12 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered truly random.

Monday 9 p.m.: British Columbia’s health minister says several COVID-19 exposures in Kelowna serve as a reminder of the risks posed by private gatherings.

Adrian Dix said during a news conference Monday that warnings of possible exposures at a restaurant, spin studio, bed and breakfast and resort are believed to stem from “private parties” at the hotels.

Eight positive tests for the disease are linked to visits to downtown Kelowna and the city’s waterfront between June 25 and July 9, said an email from Interior Health, the regional health authority.

“When people come together for private parties — in this case it was primarily people in their 20s and 30s — the risks are considerably higher,” Dix said.

The exposures follow the move to a new phase of reopening in B.C. that allows for tourism within the province. Although the accommodation industry was not ordered to close during the pandemic, many operators did so voluntarily but began welcoming guests again as part of the new phase.

Infections in B.C. inched up on Monday as health officials announced 62 new cases since Friday.

Two more people also died for a total of 189 deaths in B.C.

The new figures bring the total number of confirmed cases in the province to 3,115, while 2,718 people have fully recovered from COVID-19.

Click here to read more of Monday’s coverage.

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Fraudsters create fake Canadian company, steal foreign website to victimize job seekers – CBC.ca

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When Ashley lost her position as a French program co-ordinator due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she threw herself into an aggressive search for another job.  

With experience in sales, marketing and co-ordination, the 25-year-old sent her resume out widely and posted it on Indeed, Linked-in and other reputable career sites. 

So when a Vancouver-based technology company called Gux-IT contacted her in June and invited her to apply for a full-time “general assistant” position she would work remotely from her Toronto home, she was excited — but also cautious. 

Although working from home has become the norm, especially over the past several months of the pandemic, Ashley was also conscious that employment scams — where people desperate for work are “hired” into jobs that don’t exist and tricked into using their own money for things — have been on the rise. 

Her first step was to make sure there was a job posted on Gux-IT’s website and thoroughly examine the rest of it.  

“I also always check, too, when I do go on websites, the red flags,” Ashley said. “That means the ‘about us’ page, that means a number, an address, all the different links that are able to be clicked. I did check all of those things.” 

The people she was communicating with used Gux-IT email addresses. In her job interview, she spoke with someone on the phone who appeared to be calling from a B.C. area code. Ashley even looked up the company’s headquarters with Google Street View.

She thought she had checked all the right boxes. But what she didn’t realize was that Gux-IT itself is a fake organization — nothing more than fraudsters hidden behind a duplicated website and an incorporated company that doesn’t belong to them.  

Job scams on the rise

Job scams are on the rise and becoming more sophisticated, said Jeff Thomson, senior RCMP intelligence analyst at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

In 2019, the centre received more than 2,400 job-related fraud reports, he said. The number of reports counted in 2020 is already more than 2,300 — and that’s only up to July.    

With more people losing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and seeking work, as well as shifting to doing business primarily online, “it’s sort of ripe for job scams right now,” Thomson said. 

The home page for Synebo, a company based in Odessa, Ukraine, is shown on the left. Gux-IT, a fake company created to attract job seekers it can then use to transfer money into crytocurrency, copied Synebo’s website to look like a legitimate organization. (CBC News)

Ashley’s first day of work at Gux-IT on July 6 started normally enough. She gave the company a copy of her driver’s licence, but not her social insurance number. She didn’t supply any banking information; she was told she’d be paid via e-transfers biweekly.

The person introduced as Ashley’s HR manager communicated with her using the Telegram messaging app — something that didn’t seem strange in an era of teleworking.  Her manager used the name Nancy Garapick. After the fact, Ashley realized it was a fake identity — the stolen name of a Canadian Olympic swimmer.  

CBC News has agreed to use only Ashley’s first name because it’s not known who or where the people behind Gux-IT are. She fears for her safety after sharing her experience publicly. 

For the first part of the day, Nancy had Ashley watch training and orientation videos. She urged Ashley to contact her with any questions or concerns.

Later in the day, Nancy messaged Ashley with her first task: to help the IT department, which she was told advised clients on what software and website hosting tools they needed and also bought them on clients’ behalf.

Cryptocurrency transactions

“It is quite simple: you will need to buy domains, hosting for websites, pay for various tools that they need in their work,” wrote Nancy in a message Ashley screengrabbed and provided to CBC News.

To do that, Nancy wrote, “we will carry out the task of replenishing your work wallet” using Ethereum, or “Ether” — a cryptocurrency much like bitcoin.

Ashley, who brought Gux-IT’s fraudulent activity to CBC’s attention, took screenshots of her Telegram conversations with the person posing as her HR manager, including those instructing her to transfer cash into the cryptocurrency ‘Ethereum.’ The HR manager used the fake name ‘Nancy Garapick,’ stolen from a Canadian Olympic swimmer. (Submitted by Ashley)

There are bitcoin and Ethereum ATMs — just like regular ATMs — in convenience stores across Toronto, and several in other Canadian cities, such as Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver.  Ashley was told she would receive an e-transfer of $2,000 from the company and then go deposit it into a cryptocurrency ATM located in a convenience store on Gerrard Street in Toronto to start her “work wallet.”

Wanting to be extra cautious, Ashley contacted her Scotiabank branch and told them an e-transfer was coming from a new employer, and to alert her if anything looked suspicious. When the transfer arrived within a couple of hours, the bank didn’t raise any alarms, so Ashley withdrew the $2,000 as instructed and made the deposit.

She had just deposited the money into the Ether wallet when her phone rang with devastating news. The Google Street View she had previously seen had shown a building with several businesses in it, so her boyfriend had contacted a bar on the ground floor and asked an employee there if he would check the office directory after his shift.

‘My heart and my stomach just sank’

Still standing beside the ATM, Ashley listened as this “kind soul” returned their call. 

“He’s like, ‘Hey guys, I looked into it for you … and this company doesn’t exist. Like, it’s nowhere in the building,'” she said. “My heart and my stomach just sank.” 

Thomson at the anti-fraud centre said they’ve received another similar, anonymous report from someone else who was “hired” by Gux-IT and asked to do the same thing. 

The goal of “cash-out scams” like this, he said, is to move dirty money using “employees.”

‘Nancy’ directed Ashley to this Bitcoin and Ethereum ATM in a convenience store on Gerrard Street in Toronto to convert about $2,000 into cryptocurrency. (Greg Bruce/CBC News)

“What we see is the fraudsters take time to set up fraudulent websites that may spoof real companies or seem legitimate,” Thomson said. 

Then, they take money from “compromised accounts” and have unsuspecting people who think they’re doing legitimate work convert it into cryptocurrencies that are hard for law enforcement to track, he explained.

“They’re implicating you in a money laundering scheme, a cash-out scheme.”

Stolen website and parent company

CBC News investigated Gux-IT and found its website had been stolen — copied almost word for word, including the design, the description of the company’s services  and even employee photos — from a company called Synebo based in Odessa, Ukraine.  

The fraudsters substituted the name Gux-IT, or just “Gux, ” wherever Synebo is mentioned.

When reached by CBC News in Ukraine on Thursday, the founder and head of Synebo, Shimshon Korits, confirmed he had never heard of Gux-IT.  Synebo had recently received a couple of messages through its “contact us” email, which Korits wasn’t sure what to make of, alerting him that Gux-IT appeared to be stealing his company’s identity.

The Gux-IT website copied almost every part of Synebo’s website, including employee photos and company history, pictured above. Synebo’s website is on the left and the Gux-IT copy is on the right. (CBC News)

CBC News reviewed the emails: one was from someone who had been checking out Gux-IT for a friend who had been offered a job there and found the same photos were on both websites through a reverse image search. The other was from a woman who said she had clicked on the phone number listed on Gux-IT’s website and Synebo’s number came up.

When CBC News called the number at the bottom of Gux-IT’s website, it was out of service. 

With everyone associated with Gux-IT using fake names, no one knows who to contact. After “Nancy” tried to get Ashley to move another $3,000, Ashley blocked her.  Nancy then erased all the messages they had exchanged on Telegram, Ashley said. 

Even the “parent company” listed on Gux-IT’s website — Gux Enterprises Ltd. — is stolen. 

Ken Ellis, a steamfitter in rural Bonnington, B.C., registered Gux Enterprises Ltd. as a corporation last October when he was considering starting an equipment rental business. CBC News found him through the incorporation certificate filed with Industry Canada. 

Reached by phone on Thursday, Ellis was stunned.

“They’re just stealing my name and putting it on their website,” he said after checking the Gux-IT site himself.

‘This is a new digital world’

Ellis reported it to his local police force immediately after speaking to CBC News.

“Unfortunately the local police have informed me that they have no resources to take down the website or even do anything but open a file,” he wrote in an email. “I find it sickening that criminals keep finding more complex ways to fool and fraud people with relative impunity.

Ashley felt the same way. She’s reported Gux-IT to the Toronto Police Service and to Scotiabank. Both told CBC News they are investigating. 

So far, there’s no sign that the e-transfer she deposited at the cryptocurrency ATM has bounced, but her bank hasn’t confirmed that. Like Thomson at the anti-fraud centre, she suspects that the people responsible were using her to launder money. 

In addition, when she called credit monitoring companies Equifax and Transunion to flag her credit cards the day after she realized Gux-IT was a scam, she was horrified to learn her birthdate and address had been changed in their systems.  

Although they can’t prove Gux-IT was behind that, Thomson said he wouldn’t be surprised.

“They’re not just going after your money, they’re going after your personal information.  Your personal information is a commodity,” he said, noting that the fraudsters would likely use it to open other accounts, or sell it to other identity thieves. 

Although Ashley did her due diligence in researching the company, the “red flag” that should stop even the most savvy people from falling for schemes is being asked to transfer money — especially into cryptocurrency, Thomson said. 

“That’s where we say, ‘don’t do it,” he said. 

Ashley hopes that sharing her story will also help. 

“This is a new digital world,” she said. “I hope this helps others educate themselves.”
 

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Canada adds 374 new covid19 cases, 4 deaths on Thursday

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Canada saw 374 new coronavirus cases on Thursday and four new deaths.

The country now has 118,561 cases total and 8,966 deaths.

Ontario reported 95 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, on Thursday, bringing the provincial total to 39,809.

This is the fourth day in a row Ontario has seen case counts lower than 100.

The death toll in the province has risen to 2,783 as one new death was reported.

Meanwhile, 35,906 Ontarians have recovered from COVID-19, which is 90 per cent of cases.

 

Quebec reported 133 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Thursday.

The province has now recorded a total of 60,133 infections and 5,687 deaths from the disease.

Over in Nova Scotia, no new cases were reported Thursday. Two active cases remain in the province.

Two new cases were reported in New Brunswick — both linked to temporary foreign workers who had arrived in Moncton — totaling six active cases in the province and 176 confirmed cases total.

Saskatchewan reported one more death Thursday to make 19 total, as well as 11 new cases. There are currently 204 active cases in the province.

Manitoba saw a significant jump in COVID-19 cases Thursday, with health officials reporting 30 new cases of the virus compared to two cases reported Wednesday.

 

The new cases bring the total number of known lab-confirmed and probable cases reported in Manitoba since March to 474, with 118 currently active.

Meanwhile, Alberta saw 56 more cases as the province celebrated a week-long trend of daily cases coming in under 100 after a surge in cases across the province. The province has seen 11,296 total cases and currently has 1,107 active cases.

Two more deaths were also reported to bring its death toll to 205.

British Columbia reported 47 new cases in the past 24 hours to bring the total number of cases in the province to 3,881.

There are now 371 active cases, and 11 people are in hospital, five of which are in critical care. The number of active cases has risen dramatically since being at 166 in early July.

For the sixth day in a row, there have been no new deaths. The number of people who have died of COVID-19 in B.C. remains at 195.

 

There have now been 19,007,938 coronavirus cases worldwide with 4,876,790 of them in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

In total, 712,334 have died around the world, and 159,990 in the U.S.

— With files from the Canadian Press, Gabby Rodrigues, Karla Renic, Thomas Piller, Shane Gibson, Kirby Bourne

Source:- Global News

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More than 750 Canadians have received 'unsolicited seeds,' CFIA says – CTV News

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TORONTO —
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has received more than 750 reports of unsolicited seeds sent to Canadians across the country.

In a news release, the CFIA said Canadians in each province have received the mysterious packages, though there haven’t been any reported seed deliveries in the territories.

“In collaboration with the Canadian public, the CFIA continues to collect information on these unsolicited seed packages, including information about the contents, on the sender, return address (if any), postmark, and how the package was labelled,” the release states.

The CFIA said the packages are sent from several countries and are usually declared as toys or jewelry, which makes it difficult to catch at the border.

The seeds are from a variety of plants, including tomatoes, strawberries, roses and citrus plants. Some of them contained weeds found in Canada, including shepherd’s purse and flixweed.

“Based on visual inspections carried out to datethe seeds appear to be low risk, however Canadians are being cautioned to not plant these seeds from unknown origins,” the CFIA said.

The agency said it’s still unclear where the seeds are coming from and why people are receiving them, although some of the recipients had ordered seeds in the past.

The United States Department of Agriculture has said the seeds are believed to be part of a “brushing scam,” in which a company sends packages to unsolicited destinations and uses the order to boost customer reviews to improve their standing online.

The CFIA said it is considering all options, including the possibility of a brushing scam.

Anyone who receives some unsolicited seeds in the mail is asked to put the entire package in a second bag and report it to the CFIA.

If the seeds are already planted, the CFIA asks from them to be removed.

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