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UK prepares to roll out Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine – Al Jazeera English



  • The UK is preparing to become the first country to roll out the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, initially making the shot available at hospitals before distributing stocks to the doctors’ clinics.
  • For the third day in a row, the US saw a record number of cases, with nearly 230,000 new infections on Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • Globally, more than 1.5 million people have died due to COVID-19, while 42 million people have recovered from it.

Here are the latest updates:

20 mins ago (10:13 GMT)

UK regulator who approved COVID jab says ‘we are ready’ for no-deal Brexit

The head of Britain’s medicines regulator asked whether the COVID-19 vaccine rollout risked being disrupted if the UK and the European Union fail to reach a trade deal before the end of the Brexit transition period, said: “we are ready”.

“We’ve practised, we are ready, we are fully prepared for any possible outcome,” said June Raine, head of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), on BBC television.

The MHRA approved the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 on December 2 and rollout is scheduled to begin in the coming days. The Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

1 hour ago (09:26 GMT)

COVID-19 hits England cricket tour of South Africa

Two members of England cricket’s touring party in South Africa have tested positive for Covid-19 and the re-scheduled first one-day international was cancelled.

The match in Paarl was to have opened the series after Friday’s scheduled first match in Cape Town was scrapped just before play was to begin after a South African player tested positive for coronavirus.

Cricket South Africa and the England and Wales Cricket Board said in a joint statement that two members of England’s touring party had now tested positive for the virus, although further tests were required.

2 hours ago (08:57 GMT)

Indonesia minister arrested over pandemic aid corruption

Indonesia’s social affairs minister has been arrested for allegedly taking $1.2m in bribes linked to food aid for those hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Juliari Batubara was named as a suspect after Indonesian anti-corruption agents seized suitcases, backpacks and envelopes stuffed with cash equivalent to $1.2m in a sting operation on Saturday.

Read more here.

2 hours ago (08:44 GMT)

Russia reports record 29,039 new COVID-19 cases

Russia has reported a record high of 29,039 new cases, taking the national total to 2,460,770 since the pandemic began.

Authorities confirmed 457 deaths related to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, pushing the official national death toll to 43,141.

2 hours ago (08:42 GMT)

‘Millionaire’s tax’ for virus relief passes Argentina Senate

Argentina’s Senate has passed a tax on about 12,000 of the country’s richest people, to pay for coronavirus measures including medical supplies and relief for the poor and small businesses.

In a session streamed live on YouTube, and after a long and polarising debate, the so-called solidarity contribution was signed into law with 42 votes in favour and 26 against, as the pro-government alliance flexed its majority.

Read more here.

3 hours ago (07:57 GMT)

Germany confirms coronavirus cases rise by 17,767

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany have increased by 17,767 to 1,171,323, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 255 to 18,772, the tally showed.

People queue to get a swab test on the novel coronavirus outside the KitKatClub night club in Berlin [Tobias Schwarz / AFP]

4 hours ago (06:49 GMT)

UK prepares to roll out COVID-19 vaccine

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are set to be administered on Tuesday, with the National Health Service (NHS) giving top priority to vaccinating those over 80, front-line healthcare workers and care home staff and residents.

The UK granted emergency-use approval for the vaccine on Wednesday, the first country to do so. In total, the government ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate 20 million people in the country of 67 million people.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II will receive the vaccine within weeks, the Mail on Sunday reported. The monarch, 94, and her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip are in line to get the jab early due to their age and not receive preferential treatment, the report said.

4 hours ago (06:37 GMT)

China prepares large-scale rollout of vaccines

Provincial governments across China are placing orders for experimental, domestically made coronavirus vaccines, though health officials have yet to say how well they work or how they will be delivered to the country’s 1.4 billion people.

China’s pharmaceutical industry is testing at least five vaccines from four producers in more than a dozen countries including Russia, Egypt and Mexico.

Meanwhile, mainland China has reported 18 new COVID-19 cases, up from 17 on Saturday, the national health authority said. New asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to two from 12 a day earlier. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China stands at 86,619 to date, while the death toll is 4,634.

4 hours ago (06:43 GMT)

S Korea tightens social distancing rules: Report

South Korea’s government has tightened physical distancing requirements in the capital Seoul, Yonhap news agency said, as the country grapples with the highest coronavirus infections in nine months.

South Korea has reported 631 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country’s total tally to 37,546, with 545 deaths.

South Korea grapples with the highest coronavirus infections in nine months [File:Heo Ran/Reuters]

4 hours ago (06:43 GMT)

Australian state eases restrictions for ‘COVID safe’ summer

Australia’s Victoria state has eased restrictions after the country’s pandemic hotspot recorded 37 days without any new coronavirus infections, moving towards a “COVID-safe” holiday season.

From midnight on Sunday, up to 100 people will be able to attend public gatherings such as weddings, with density rules of one person per two square metres remaining in place, while 50 percent of office workers will be able to return to workplaces by January 11, up from 25 percent now, the state’s premier said.

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Coronavirus: Regina police, SHA looking into maskless dance video – Global News



Police and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) are looking into a video circulating on social media that shows people dancing without masks at a Regina bar and restaurant.

The Tap Brewhouse & Liquor Store posted a statement on Facebook this past weekend regarding a video recorded on its premise on Jan. 15.

Read more:
Regina police fine woman $2,800 for disobeying COVID-19 public health orders

“There were some young patrons not adhering to the COVID rules and guidelines. They were asked to leave, which they did in a timely manner,” read the statement attributed to The Tap ownership and management group.

“Unfortunately, they decided to dance their way out the door.

“We have strictly followed the guidelines implemented from day one of the pandemic and assure everyone this is a very isolated incident. Because of this incident, we have implemented more supervision & education in our business for the safety of our customers … we sincerely apologize to everyone.”

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Read more:
Coronavirus outbreak at Saskatoon restaurant was potential superspreader event: SHA

The Regina Police Service (RPS) said on Monday the matter is in the hands of the SHA, and is working in conjunction with them.

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“A number have asked if people will be ticketed under the Saskatchewan’s Public Health Act as a result of this video,” read a RPS statement.

“The short answer is: we do not know; it’s not concluded yet.

“One of the messages from us and (the provincial) government was that each case is evaluated on its own merits. Another theme was that the goal is compliance, not handing out fines (although that is one of the options available) … and the matter will be dealt with appropriately.”

Fines for not following Saskatchewan’s public health orders, in cases where negligence or misconduct have been found, may be $2,000 for individuals and $10,000 for corporations, plus a victim surcharge.

RPS have issued at least nine tickets under the public health orders brought into effect during the pandemic.

Click to play video 'COVID-19 restrictions extended in Saskatchewan until Jan. 29'

COVID-19 restrictions extended in Saskatchewan until Jan. 29

COVID-19 restrictions extended in Saskatchewan until Jan. 29

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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

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Quebec high school students back in classroom after month-long break – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

Published Monday, January 18, 2021 10:32PM EST

MONTREAL – Quebec high school students returned to classrooms on Monday following a month-long, extended winter break imposed by the government to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The return of high schoolers came one week after primary schools reopened last Monday. High school students are required to wear procedural masks at all times inside school buildings, and the province is providing each student two masks per day.

Quebec is reopening schools despite imposing a provincewide curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. until at least Feb. 8. and despite ordering most businesses deemed non-essential closed.

Premier Francois Legault has said schools aren’t primary drivers of COVID-19 transmission and that the benefits to children of keeping them open outweigh the risks of contagion.

A recent study by a group of researchers, including some from the Universite de Montreal, indicated schools were, in fact, a significant vector of transmission. Government figures indicate that schools have accounted for about 22.5 per cent of all completed outbreaks in the province – second only to workplaces.

Monday’s return to class coincided with a sharp decrease in the number of reported COVID-19 infections. The province reported 1,634 new COVID-19 cases – including about 200 that were left out of Sunday’s tally due to a reporting delay. Quebec had been recently reporting more than 1,900 cases a day.

Benoit Masse, public health expert at the Universite de Montreal, said it’s too soon to know which way the numbers are trending.

“I would be very careful before we declare victory because I think everybody realized, especially in the last 10 days, that we are in a very, very difficult situation,” Masse said. “I think everybody is making their effort and following the rules.”

He said it’ll take another 10 days to two weeks to determine the epidemiological impact of reopening schools.

“We have to see for a week or two that the early trend that we’re seeing (currently) keeps going down and has an effect on hospitalizations,” Masse said in an interview Monday.

“It’s not going to be tomorrow . . . but we should be able to reach Feb. 8 and see whether we’re going to be in a good position,” he said, referring to the date when the curfew is scheduled to be lifted.

Despite a drop in new infections, authorities reported a rise in hospitalizations Monday after reporting decreases during the previous three days. The number of patients rose by 31, to 1,491, and the number of patients in intensive care rose by two, to 217.

“Before you see a reduction of hospitalizations, you have to see a reduction in the cases,” Masse said.

Quebec announced Monday it has vaccinated three-quarters of long-term care residents with a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“Vaccination continues to give a first dose to the entire group,” Health Minister Christian Dube wrote on Twitter. Quebec administered 6,845 vaccine doses Sunday, for a total 153,539.

Vaccinations won’t help bring down Quebec numbers in the short term, but Masse said the protection will be needed should cases begin to rise in the spring.

Masse said it’s too early to say whether the curfew is having a direct impact on case numbers. On Monday, Quebec’s Public Security Department reported that 1,429 tickets had been handed out by Quebec police forces relating to the curfew between Jan. 11 and Jan. 17.

Montreal police said they handed out 353 curfew-related tickets and another 583 tickets for contravening public health rules.

Quebec has reported 244,348 infections and 9,087 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, with 215,325 people deemed recovered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021.

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Survey offers glimpse of what could reopen in Manitoba – Winnipeg Free Press



The Manitoba government’s online survey on the easing of COVID-19 restrictions is mostly a public relations exercise. But it does provide insight into what the province may reopen this week — and what is off the table.

The Pallister government is expected to announce as early as Tuesday what changes are in store for public health orders when regulations expire Friday. The easing of restrictions are expected to be minor. Provincial officials have made it clear they don’t want a “yo-yo” approach, where measures are loosened and reinstated every few weeks.

The online survey, which went live Friday, is mostly about optics; an attempt to convince the public they have a real say over public health orders. It may have some impact on government decision-making. Not all low-risk businesses, services or activities can reopen at once. Decisions to open some and not others will be arbitrary. Knowing the priorities of the public could act as a tie-breaker in some cases.


Much to the chagrin of some protesters, the doffing of masks in indoor public places is also not on the table.

For the most part, though, public health officials will make those decisions on their own.

In the meantime, the survey acts as a short list for what could reopen. It shows what is under consideration and asks respondents to rank options in order of importance. If it’s not listed, it’s probably not on the table.

“Not all activities and services are immediately listed as not all are being considered in the current round of services and activities due to the higher risk of activity,” the survey says.

Bars, city libraries, movie theatres and tattoo parlours are not listed. Presumably, those are not up for consideration. Much to the chagrin of some protesters, the doffing of masks in indoor public places is also not on the table.

Bars are not one of the activities listed in the survey.


Bars are not one of the activities listed in the survey.

Reducing restrictions for places of worship is being considered. In-person services are banned under code-red restrictions. Given the high level of transmission reported in those settings, it seems doubtful those would reopen, even with capacity limits. Respondents were also asked about increasing the five-person limit for funerals and weddings. Those seem more likely.

Expanding retail has a good shot. It will probably be the most significant part of this week’s announcement. Respondents were asked whether they should be allowed to shop without limiting the products they can buy. Right now, stores can only sell essential items, as prescribed by regulation. Considering the low-risk nature of retail and what’s at stake economically for small business owners, eliminating the essential-items list (or at least broadening it) seems likely. With the help of face coverings and capacity restrictions, retail can operate relatively safely.

Barber shops and hairstylists are up for consideration, as are gyms and fitness studios. Those are possibilities.

Greater access to recreation opportunities, including resuming organized sports (such as amateur hockey and indoor soccer) are also on the list. I wouldn’t hold my breath on those. Most organized sports are volunteer-driven and don’t have the resources of public schools to enforce public health measures. Sports for adults, such as beer league hockey and indoor soccer, will probably have to wait.

Considering the low-risk nature of retail and what’s at stake economically for small business owners, eliminating the essential-items list seems likely.


Considering the low-risk nature of retail and what’s at stake economically for small business owners, eliminating the essential-items list seems likely.

The most concerning set of questions in the survey is around household gatherings. Once government finally agreed in late November to prohibit people from having visitors in their homes (with some exceptions), COVID-19 cases began to fall. It wasn’t the only reason for the decline, but it was a significant factor. People gathering indoors for prolonged periods without masks is a major source of transmission.

The survey asks respondents for their views on expanding the list of exemptions for household gatherings, returning to a limit of five visitors per home, or maintaining the status quo.

Loosening those measures when Manitoba still has over 100 cases of COVID-19 a day would be a big mistake.

If infection rates and hospital numbers continue to fall, Manitoba could ease restrictions further in late February. For now, baby steps are the name of the game.

Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck

Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

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