By Michelle Nichols and Stephanie Nebehay
NEW YORK/GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday it is time for countries to start using money from their national COVID-19 response to help fund a global vaccine plan as the World Bank warned that “broad, rapid and affordable access” to those doses will be at the core of a resilient global economic recovery.
The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and its COVAX facility – led by the World Health Organization and GAVI vaccine alliance – has received $3 billion, but needs another $35 billion. It aims to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021, 245 million treatments and 500 million tests.
At a high-level virtual U.N. event on the program, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the financing gap was less than 1% of what the world’s 20 largest economies (G20) had committed to domestic stimulus packages and “it’s roughly equivalent to what the world spends on cigarettes every two weeks.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged $100 million to GAVI to help poorer countries gain access to a vaccine and Johnson & Johnson Chief Executive Alex Gorsky committed 500 million vaccine doses for low-income countries with delivery starting in mid-2021.
“Having access to lifesaving COVID diagnostics, therapeutics or vaccines … shouldn’t depend on where you live, whether you’re rich or poor,” said Gorsky, adding that while Johnson & Johnson is “acting at an unprecedented scale and speed, but we are not for a minute cutting corners on safety.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has said that a vaccine against the virus might be ready before the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, raising questions about whether political pressure might result in the deployment of a vaccine before it is safe.
“We remain 100 percent committed to high ethical and scientific principles,” Gorsky said.
GAVI Chief Executive Seth Berkley said that so far 168 countries, including 76 self-financing states, have joined the COVAX global vaccines facility. Tedros said this represented 70% of the world’s population, adding: “The list is growing every day.”
China, Russia and the United States have not joined the facility, although WHO officials have said they are still holding talks with China about signing up. The United States has reached its own deals with vaccine developers.
World Bank President David Malpass said the pandemic could push 150 million people into extreme poverty by 2021 and the “negative impact on human capital will be deep and may last decades.”
“Broad, rapid and affordable access to COVID vaccines will be at the core of a resilient global economic recovery that lifts everyone,” he said.
Guterres said that the ACT-Accelerator was the only safe and certain way to reopen the global economy quickly.
But he warned that the program needed an immediate injection of $15 billion to “avoid losing the window of opportunity” for advance purchase and production, to build stocks in parallel with licensing, boost research, and help countries prepare.
“We cannot allow a lag in access to further widen already vast inequalities,” Guterres said.
“But let’s be clear: We will not get there with donors simply allocating resources only from the Official Development Assistance budget,” he said. “It is time for countries to draw funding from their own response and recovery programs.”
U.N. Secretary-General Guterres called on all countries to step up significantly in the next three months.
Billionaire Bill Gates told the U.N. event that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had signed an agreement with 16 pharmaceutical companies on Wednesday.
“In this agreement the companies commit to, among other things, scaling up manufacturing, at an unprecedented speed, and making sure that approved vaccines reach broad distribution as early as possible,” Gates said.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – a co-host of the meeting along with Guterres, the WHO and South Africa – urged other countries to join the global effort, saying the ACT-Accelerator is the best hope of bringing the pandemic under control.
Said Merkel: “We’re in for the long haul and we need more support.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Paul Simao and Jonathan Oatis)
COVID-19 takes toll on physical health of young Canadians, scientists, school board find – CBC.ca
Just five per cent of Canadian children met basic physical activity guidelines early on in the pandemic, which is why school phys-ed programs are now looking for alternatives to get students to work up a sweat in a safe fashion.
As a result of physical distancing measures and increased remote learning, children have had more sedentary time during the pandemic, and that has had implications for schools planning physical education.
The Toronto District School Board, for instance, has asked gym teachers to cancel fall fitness training after phys-ed instructors reported that students’ physical activity levels have been alarming so far.
“They’ve noticed that kids are out of breath immediately, so the lack of physical activity that’s taken place over the last seven months is showing,” said George Kourtis, who heads the TDSB’s phys-ed program.
Even so, educators say it’s imperative that kids get a workout of some sort. But that comes with challenges in a remote learning environment.
WATCH | Schools adjust as kids lacked exercise during lockdown:
Jennifer Bell, a Grade 11 phys-ed teacher with TDSB’s virtual school, recently demonstrated lunges to a class by doing the movements toward her laptop screen. But the students had their cameras turned off, which makes the learning more difficult.
“How do we teach sports skills while you’re standing in your living room?” Bell said. “You don’t necessarily have another opponent or a partner to play a sport with. That’s where we’re trying to get creative.”
Physically distanced football
Getting creative includes activities like juggling to practise movement skills and having students regularly type in their 15-second heart rate measurements to show that their heart rate is increasing from the participation, Bell said.
Maryam Sabir, 14, is taking Grade 9 phys-ed in person in Toronto. Maryam said physical distancing rules put a new twist on learning to play football.
“You had to stay six feet apart,” both horizontally and vertically, Maryam said. “You can’t really communicate with other people. It becomes harder to play in the game.”
Maryam said she enjoys being physically active. When the phys-ed class ends next month, she plans to continue to get a workout by playing basketball or soccer with friends.
Importance of movement
- An accumulation of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity (such as walking quickly enough to still be able to talk but not sing).
- Nine to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night for those aged five to 13 and eight to 10 hours per night for those aged 14 to 17, with consistent bed and wake-up times.
- No more than two hours per day of recreational screen time.
Mark Tremblay, a senior scientist in obesity at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa, was part of a team that surveyed more than 1,400 parents of children and youth online nationally in April, about a month after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in Canada.
Prior to the pandemic, about 15 per cent of kids met Canada’s 24-hour guidelines for physical activity, sedentary time and sleep, said Tremblay.
He found that movement levels had plunged as low as three per cent during the early days of the restrictions.
“Almost no Canadian kids were practising the healthy living behaviours that are associated with health, and that puts them at increased risk, of course, of physical and mental health issues going forward,” Tremblay said, which “is not what public health officials want.”
The study, published this summer in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, suggested that the pandemic wasn’t entirely to blame. But certain factors could increase the likelihood of healthy movement behaviours outside of school, including:
- Parental encouragement and support.
- Parents playing actively with their children.
- Dog ownership.
The lack of physical activity was also influenced by children’s living arrangements. Kids who spent more time active outdoors were more likely to live in a house as opposed to a 40-story apartment building downtown where families may not feel safe playing outside, Tremblay said.
Tremblay said the public health messaging about staying home is important, “but it doesn’t mean stay inside.”
The scientists plan to repeat their survey on kids’ physical activity levels in early November.
Calgary 'superspreader' wedding responsible for at least 49 cases of COVID-19 – CBC.ca
At least 49 active cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a wedding held earlier this month in Calgary.
It comes as Alberta hits its highest case numbers ever — 3,138 active cases, 998 of which are in Calgary.
The wedding featured a large number of Albertans from different households, Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said.
Aggressive contact tracing is underway to identify anyone who may have been exposed and ensure they are isolating and getting tested, and anyone at risk is being contacted directly by Alberta Health Services.
McMillan said Alberta Health can’t comment on specifics about individual cases due to patient confidentiality, but he did say it’s not yet clear what led to the level of exposure and that an investigation is underway.
Reminder that ‘this virus is still here’
Several recent outbreaks in Calgary have been linked to social gatherings, he said, adding that no one should attend a gathering if they have even mild symptoms or are awaiting test results.
“This is a reminder to all Albertans that this virus is still here and any social gathering carries a risk of exposure. This is true for both planned events, like wedding receptions, or informal get-togethers in a house or community space,” McMillan said.
“It is also important that organizers of social gatherings do everything possible to comply with the public health guidance in place, including ensuring that there is enough space for physical distancing between cohorts, following gathering size restrictions and avoiding sharing food and utensils.”
We also have to keep in mind that many of these gatherings … probably have a significant number of people that are in at-risk groups.– Craig Jenne, infectious disease expert
Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease expert with the University of Calgary, said based on the high transmission numbers, he would consider this event a “superspreader.”
“Although 49 cases may not seem like a huge number, we have to keep in mind that these people have perhaps had continual contact with others after the wedding … if each person passes [COVID-19] on to two, three, four other people, we may be looking at an event that has now led to 200, 300 or more cases in the community. And again, each of those cases has the potential to spread it further,” he said.
“We also have to keep in mind that many of these gatherings … probably have a significant number of people that are in at-risk groups — older parents, grandparents.”
Jenne said while it’s worth looking at whether guidelines like physical distancing, mask-wearing and attendance numbers were followed, ultimately, having large indoor gatherings right now simply isn’t safe.
“The virus doesn’t really care that you wore a mask until you sat down at the table … you have 100 people eating in the same room and multiple people at tables, this really creates an opportunity for the virus to move around,” he said.
Manitoba's COVID-19 numbers trend downward as bars and restaurants face restrictions – OttawaMatters.com
WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s COVID-19 numbers have started to drop somewhat following a surge last week and after restrictions were imposed on restaurants and bars.
Health officials reported 80 new cases and the deaths of two residents at a Winnipeg personal care home Monday.
It was the fourth consecutive day that the new case number was in the double-digits after peaking last week at 173.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said there is no definitive way to link the drop to earlier closing times that were imposed on licensed restaurants and bars in the Winnipeg region two weeks ago.
But he said that was the aim of the rules — to cut the case count by reducing the amount of time people spend gathered in groups in close quarters.
“We just know with this virus that it’s prolonged indoor contact, and so businesses that have that as a major part of their business operation are unfortunately quite affected by this pandemic.
“And so when we see the cases going up, we have to do whatever we can to try to keep the numbers manageable.”
Further restrictions in greater Winnipeg took effect Monday. Casinos and live-entertainment nightclubs must close. Bars, lounges and restaurants must operate at half capacity.
The measures are to be in place for two weeks and may be extended if COVID-19 numbers don’t drop.
Bars that are attached to hotels — licensed with the province under the category of “beverage rooms” — were originally supposed to be closed for two weeks as well. But the government changed its mind at the last minute and allowed them to stay open under the same half-capacity limit as bars, lounges and restaurants.
“We’re happy that they’re having a different thought on that,” Scott Jocelyn, president of the Manitoba Hotel Association, said of the government move.
“So many areas of our industry have been impacted (by the pandemic) and it (would have been) just another body blow.”
Business groups in Winnipeg have said bars and restaurants were already hurting and the increased restrictions are likely to force some to close unless the Manitoba government offers financial help.
The province has already offered general wage subsidies to businesses, but has been noncommittal on further aid geared toward the hospitality sector.
The province is also trying to tackle long wait times for testing by using doctors’ offices after normal business hours.
The first office is scheduled to open Tuesday evening at a walk-in clinic in the city’s south end. Appointments will be available online.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2020
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
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