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Top scientists propose moving pandemic warning system outside government

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A Globe and Mail investigation last year found that GPHIN’s capabilities had been allowed to erode over the past decade as priorities within the government changed.

Illustration by The Globe and Mail

A group of top scientists concerned about the decline of the federal pandemic early warning system in the years before COVID-19 emerged have proposed relocating the operation to a university where it can work independently of government.

The proposal is aimed at restoring the Global Public Health Intelligence Network to its former status as an internationally respected pandemic surveillance system. Documents outlining the plan were submitted to an independent panel in Ottawa that is reviewing the system’s future.

According to the documents, GPHIN would work with the World Health Organization and be based at the University of Ottawa’s Bruyère Research Institute. The university and the WHO back the idea, says the proposal, which was reviewed by The Globe and Mail.

“We propose the creation of a Canadian-based WHO collaborating centre for global health intelligence,” the proposal states. Such a move “would provide a new, stable and cost-effective environment for the future management of GPHIN.

“GPHIN must be guaranteed freedom from government influence or interference. To achieve independence of any future government influence, bias or interference, GPHIN must be situated outside of government.”

A Globe and Mail investigation last year found that GPHIN’s capabilities had been allowed to erode over the past decade as priorities within the government changed, and senior officials in the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) sought to deploy its resources elsewhere.

Some of the core functions of the system, which provided crucial intelligence before and during the 2003 SARS crisis and 2009 H1N1 outbreak, were silenced in 2018 and 2019. With no pandemic threats apparent, management in the department sought to shift resources to areas that didn’t involve outbreak surveillance.

The proposal to partner with the WHO is being led by Ron St. John, a former top federal epidemiologist who helped create GPHIN in the 1990s, and other current and former top federal scientists. If it succeeds, the operation would run as a non-profit, funded in part by the federal government, and also able to seek science and technology grants from other sources, which it currently cannot do.

That new funding would be used to rebuild GPHIN’s operations and expand the system’s technical capabilities, taking some of the financial burden off the government, the documents say. GPHIN’s annual budget is around $3-million, and federal documents show it lacked the resources needed to update or grow its surveillance capacity, particularly as the system was allowed to erode.

The proposal argues that the environment needed to properly run the pandemic early warning system no longer exists inside Public Health, due to a drain of scientific and medical expertise over the past decade.

“Meeting these principles and operational conditions is not possible within the current managerial environment that exists in PHAC,” the document states. “We cannot wait for these changes to happen, as waiting will result in irreversible degradation of GPHIN and further depriving users within the global public health surveillance community of an essential tool to detect and monitor public health threats.”

WHO collaborating centres around the world are a way for member countries to contribute resources to the WHO by offering skills or technology they have. The Bruyère Research Institute is already home to one such collaborating centre, which focuses on technology used to track global health equity.

At one time, GPHIN provided the WHO with as much as 20 per cent of its epidemiological intelligence, according to Ottawa’s records. The proposal documents say GPHIN would remain one of Canada’s key contributions to the WHO, with the government providing funding for the system’s analysts to work.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu ordered an independent review in September of how PHAC handled the system after a Globe investigation last summer detailed many of the problems.

A report by the Auditor-General of Canada issued two weeks ago also found that the federal government did not use the pandemic early warning system appropriately in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, and that GPHIN failed to issue alerts. This contributed a series of faulty risk assessments as the virus began to spread around the world.

The independent review is expected to issue its final report in May, and the government won’t comment on its progress.

This is not the first time the idea of a WHO collaborating centre has been proposed for GPHIN. The proposal documents say the WHO has supported the idea since the SARS crisis, and has held talks on the subject six times, but those negotiations never came to fruition.

In 2005, talks were put on hold amid management changes inside Public Health. In 2009, similar discussions were halted due to the H1N1 outbreak. In 2012, another proposal was frozen during the Harper government’s deficit reduction plan. Similarly, talks in 2013, 2017, and 2018 never progressed due to internal restructuring in the Public Health Agency that resulted in management changes, and no further steps were taken.

The push to rebuild GPHIN comes at a time when other countries have identified the need to build their own early warning systems to help the international community detect major threats early and better contain outbreaks. The U.K. government and the Biden administration in the United States have signalled plans to bolster such capacities in recent months. An independent review examining the WHO’s pandemic preparedness is also expected to highlight the importance of such systems in its final report, expected this spring.

The epidemiologists behind the proposal say they want to restore Canada’s leadership in pandemic early warning and detection.

“GPHIN has achieved world-wide recognition as a rapid provider of accurate information regarding a variety of global events of public health importance,” the proposal says. “Future versions of GPHIN must build on and maintain this pre-eminent position. It’s Canadian origin and Canadian support during its lifetime is recognized and should be retained.”

 

 

Source:- The Globe and Mail

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Canadian Business During the Pandemic

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In 2019 the world was hit by the covid 19 pandemic and ever since then people have been suffering in different ways. Usually, economies and businesses have changed the way they work and do business. Most of which are going towards online and automation.

The people most effected by this are the laymen that used to work hard labors to make money for there families. But other then them it has been hard for most business to make such switch. Those of whom got on the online/ e commerce band wagon quickly were out of trouble and into the safe zone but not everyone is mace for the high-speed online world and are thus suffering.

More than 200,000 Canadian businesses could close permanently during the COVID-19 crisis, throwing millions of people out of work as the resurgence of the virus worsens across much of the country, according to new research. You can only imagine how many families these businesses were feeding, not to mention the impact the economy and the GDP is going to bear.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said one in six, or about 181,000, Canadian small business owners are now seriously contemplating shutting down. The latest figures, based on a survey of its members done between Jan. 12 and 16, come on top of 58,000 businesses that became inactive in 2020.

An estimate by the CFIB last summer said one in seven or 158,000 businesses were at risk of going under as a result of the pandemic. Based on the organization’s updated forecast, more than 2.4 million people could be out of work. A staggering 20 per cent of private sector jobs.

Simon Gaudreault, CFIB’s senior director of national research, said it was an alarming increase in the number of businesses that are considering closing.

We are not headed in the right direction, and each week that passes without improvement on the business front pushes more owners to make that final decision,”

He said in a statement.

The more businesses that disappear, the more jobs we will lose, and the harder it will be for the economy to recover.

In total, one in five businesses are at risk of permanent closure by the end of the pandemic, the organization said.

The new sad research shows that this year has been horrible for the Canadian businesses.

 

The beginning of 2021 feels more like the fifth quarter of 2020 than a new year,” said Laura Jones, executive vice-president of the CFIB, in a statement.

She called on governments to help small businesses “replace subsidies with sales” by introducing safe pathways to reopen to businesses.

There’s a lot at stake now from jobs, to tax revenue to support for local soccer teams,”

Jones said.

Let’s make 2021 the year we help small business survive and then get back to thriving.”

The whole world has suffered a lot from the pandemic and the Canadian economy has been no stranger to it. We can only pray that the world gets rid of this pandemic quickly and everything become as it used to be. Although I think it is about time, we start setting new norms.

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Shopify shares edge up after falling on executive departures

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By Chavi Mehta

(Reuters) -Shopify Inc shares edged higher on Thursday, recovering partially from the previous day’s fall, with analysts saying the news of planned senior executive departures may have limited impact due to the company’s deep talent pool.

Chief Executive Officer Tobi Lutke said in a blog post on Wednesday the company’s chief talent officer, chief legal officer and chief technology officer will all leave their roles.

“We remain confident it (Shopify) can continue to execute at a high level, despite the departures,” Tom Forte, analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co said, pointing to the company’s “deep bench of talented executives.”

Shopify, which provides infrastructure for online stores, has seen its valuation soar in the past year as many businesses went virtual during the COVID-19 lockdowns, turning it into Canada‘s most valuable company.

Shopify declined to comment further on Lutke’s statement suggesting current company leaders would step in to fill the three roles. After chief product officer Craig Miller left in September, Lutke took on the role in addition to CEO.

The Ottawa-based company is Canada‘s biggest homegrown tech success story, founded in 2006 and supporting over 1 million businesses globally, according to the company.

Jonathan Kees, analyst at Summit Insights Group, called the timing of the departures “a little alarming” but said the specific roles make it less concerning, given that the executives leaving are “more back-office roles.”

Lutke said each one of them had their individual reasons to leave, without giving details.

“I am willing to give Tobi’s explanation the benefit of the doubt,” Kees added.

Toronto-listed shares of Shopify were up 3.5% at C$1526.41 on Thursday, giving it a market value of C$188 billion ($150 billion). It ended down 5.1% on Wednesday.

“While we would refer to the departure of three high-level executives as ‘significant,’ we would not refer to it as a ‘brain drain,'” Forte added.

($1 = 1.2541 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Dan Grebler)

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Almost half of Shopify’s top execs to depart company: CEO

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By Moira Warburton

(Reuters) – Three of e-commerce platform Shopify’s seven top executives will be leaving the company in the coming months, chief executive officer and founder of Canada‘s most valuable company Tobi Lutke said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The company’s chief talent officer, chief legal officer and chief technology officer will all transition out of their roles, Lutke said, adding that they have been “spectacular and deserve to take a bow.”

“Each one of them has their individual reasons but what was unanimous with all three was that this was the best for them and the best for Shopify,” he said.

The trio follow the departure of Craig Miller, chief product officer, in September. Lutke took on the role in addition to CEO.

Shopify, which provides infrastructure for online stores, has seen its valuation soar in the last year as many businesses went virtual during COVID-19 lockdowns. It has a market cap valuation of C$182.7 billion ($146 billion), above Canada‘s top lender Royal Bank of Canada.

It is Canada‘s biggest homegrown tech success story, founded in 2006 and supporting over 1 million businesses globally, according to the company.

“We have a phenomenally strong bench of leaders who will now step up into larger roles,” Lutke said, but did not name replacements.

Shopify said in February revenue growth would slow this year as vaccine rollouts encourage people to return to stores and warned it does not expect 2020’s near doubling of gross merchandise volume, an industry metric to measure transaction volumes, to repeat this year.

Chief talent officer, Brittany Forsyth, was the 22nd employee hired at Shopify and has been with the company for 11 years. She said on Twitter that post-Shopify she would be focusing on Backbone Angels, an all-female collective of angel investors she co-founded in March.

Shopify shares fell 5.1% while the benchmark Canadian share index ended marginally down.

($1 = 1.2515 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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