The federal government is eyeing a comprehensive North American energy strategy as workers reel from cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline. The project's presidential permit was rescinded by U.S. President Joe Biden on his first day in office, prompting outrage from Alberta's provincial government. TC Energy, the proponent, had pre-emptively ceased construction of the project. "I was the minister of natural resources when the Obama administration cancelled Keystone XL. So for me, it's Round 2 of deep disappointment," Minister Jim Carr, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's representative for the Prairies, said Monday. "We have to look forward, however, to a continental energy strategy." That North American energy strategy is enticing to Alberta's premier as well, with Jason Kenney suggesting to the prime minister that they approach Washington together to pitch a collaborative approach to North American energy and climate policy. "Canada and the U.S. share a highly integrated energy system, including criss-crossing infrastructure such as pipelines and electricity transmission systems. Our energy and climate goals must be viewed in the context of that integrated system," Kenney wrote. The premier has called the Keystone cancellation an "insult" and a "gut-punch," repeatedly pressing for retaliation against the U.S. and suggesting economic and trade sanctions if the administration is unwilling to engage in conversations about the future of the pipeline. Last year, Kenney invested $1.5 billion in Keystone XL, arguing it would never be completed without the infusion. The pipeline, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude a day from the oilsands in Alberta to Nebraska. The Biden administration has made no indication it intends to consider reinstating the permit. TC Energy has already laid off 1,000 workers in Alberta. A continental energy partnership has been an elusive goal for more than 15 years, with multiple trilateral meetings ending with consensus but often without measurable outcomes. It's been five years since Carr, then the minister of natural resources, hosted his American and Mexican counterparts to discuss the potential of such a partnership. They agreed to collaborate on things like energy technologies, energy efficiency, carbon capture and emissions reduction. While they signed a document stating these shared goals, synergy between the three countries has been slow to develop. In December 2014, a similar meeting ended with a to-do list to move forward on a continental energy strategy, including mapping energy infrastructure and sharing data. That data website hasn't been updated since 2017. In that meeting, then-natural resources minister Greg Rickford was making the pitch to the Obama administration for why Keystone XL should be permitted to live. It was cancelled — for the first time — less than a year later. "We've gone through a period over the last number of years where relations around energy have kind of died a slow death and become more and more narrowly focused around individual projects," said Monica Gattinger, director of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa. "There's tremendous potential between Canada and the United States to collaborate around energy and environmental objectives in the long term." Gattinger said changes in the United States around hydrocarbon and shale have diminished the country's motivation for a broader energy approach. With the national governments in Canada and the U.S. now more closely aligned on climate priorities, she added there's the potential for a breakthrough. "Both countries have vast potential across a whole host of energy resources," she said. "Those are the conversations that we have not been having in North America for a number of years now. And there is a real opportunity to do so at this time." Carr is optimistic, too. "We're hardly starting from scratch, and there will be alignment," he said, alluding to his hope for co-operation between the U.S. and Canada, but also with the Prairie provinces. "There is an awful lot of work to be done and an awful lot of potential."
A management team from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is now helping staff at a Regina nursing home try to contain a COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed the lives of 12 residents. Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home in Regina is operated according to a contract with the SHA. Health officials declared an outbreak at the 141-person home on Dec. 18. According to an update the home provided family members on Monday, the SHA "is piloting an outbreak management team." "This team will meet with us early [Tuesday] morning to see if we can implement new strategies to more effectively contain this virus and stop its spread," the update said. Kelly Chessie, the home's executive director, said it has been working with the SHA and other homes in the Regina area throughout the pandemic, "taking every opportunity to make important changes and improvements as we learn together about what works best when fighting this virus." She said the SHA reached out last Friday with its offer of help. "We happily welcomed their expertise," Chessie said Tuesday in an email to CBC News. "They came this afternoon and I am grateful for the fresh eyes and am optimistic that we can work together to further improve and tighten our infection control measures. "Responding to an outbreak takes a lot of time and effort. Everyone here has been working very hard to contain this virus and stop its spread. Having extra hands and fresh eyes to help with this critical work will be valuable." It's not the first time the SHA has come in to assist a Saskatchewan care home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In early December, the SHA signed a co-management agreement at Extendicare's Parkside home in Regina, where 43 deaths have been linked to COVID-19. That outbreak has since been declared over and the arrangement is set to expire on Jan. 31. The Saskatchewan NDP has called on the province to take similar steps at Extendicare's Preston home in Saskatoon, which is in active outbreak. Three residents have died and more than 30 residents were infected as of last week. SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said on Tuesday the authority is in daily contact with Extendicare Preston's leaders and is supporting them. "Our local teams are given daily updates," Livingstone said. "We've been in the facility doing safety reviews and supporting the use of PPE. The facility is fully staffed, which is different from some of the other situations we've seen." Home is 'slowly building immunity' As of Tuesday, 31 residents and five staff members at Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home were actively infected with COVID-19. Several others had recovered. Santa Maria was among the first long-term care homes in Saskatchewan offered a COVID-19 vaccine, with staff receiving their first Pfizer-BioNTech doses on Dec. 24. Second doses then followed about 21 days later, Chessie said. On Jan. 14, 114 residents received their first dose. No second doses have been administered to residents yet, Chessie said. Since Jan. 14, 17 new cases of COVID-19 have been found at the home, including some residents who were vaccinated with their first dose, Chessie said. "We are slowly building immunity in this home," she stated in a note to families last week. In a subsequent note to families on Monday, Chessie said the home has a "GO team" consisting of a respiratory therapist and nurse as well as a consulting physician. "[They] continue to be here every weekday, during the day, and the physician is available on call," Chessie wrote. She said there are some residents "who need help with this fight."
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 28,505 new vaccinations administered for a total of 868,454 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 2,291.479 per 100,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 1,122,450 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 77.37 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 16,500 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.81 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,207 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,117 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 44.866 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 9,225 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 3,102 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 11,622 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 11.909 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 28,850 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 40.28 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 3,821 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 14,257 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 18.277 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 21,675 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 65.78 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 4,164 new vaccinations administered for a total of 224,879 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 26.281 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 238,100 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 94.45 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 9,707 new vaccinations administered for a total of 295,817 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.139 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 411,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.86 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 1,618 new vaccinations administered for a total of 31,369 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 22.781 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 55,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.37 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 727 new vaccinations administered for a total of 34,080 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 28.902 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 32,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 104.1 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 361 new vaccinations administered for a total of 99,814 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 22.674 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 122,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 81.33 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 2,509 new vaccinations administered for a total of 122,359 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 23.844 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 144,550 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 84.65 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 445 new vaccinations administered for a total of 4,397 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 105.365 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 35 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 30.53 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting 7,578 new vaccinations administered for a total of 9,471 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 209.912 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 32 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 65.77 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 265 new vaccinations administered for a total of 4,723 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 121.959 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 12,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 31 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 39.36 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published January 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — United Nations human rights experts are alarmed by what they see as a growing trend to enact legislation allowing medical assistance in dying for people suffering from non-terminal, disabling conditions. Three experts, including the UN's special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, say such legislation tends to be based on "ableist" assumptions about the quality and worth of the life of a person with a disability. In a statement issued earlier this week, the experts do not specifically mention Canada's proposed legislation, which would expand assisted dying to people who are suffering intolerably but are not approaching the natural end of their lives. But the arguments they make echo those advanced by Canadian disability rights advocates, who are vehemently opposed to Bill C-7. The bill has been passed by the House of Commons and is currently before the Senate. It is intended to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that struck down a provision in the current law that allows assisted dying only for those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable. The near-death restriction was challenged by Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, both of whom suffered from degenerative, disabling conditions but were not at the end of their lives. Justice Christine Baudouin agreed with them that the restriction violated their charter rights to equal treatment under the law and to life, liberty and security of the person. However, the UN experts argue that extending assisted dying to people with non-terminal conditions contravenes Article 10 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, "which requires states to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively enjoy their inherent right to life on an equal basis with others." "When life-ending interventions are normalized for people who are not terminally ill or suffering at the end of their lives, such legislative provisions tend to rest on — or draw strength from — ableist assumptions about the inherent 'quality of life' or 'worth' of the life of a person with a disability," they say in a statement issued Monday by the UN Human Rights Council. "Disability is not a burden or a deficit of the person. It is a universal aspect of the human condition," they add. "Under no circumstance should the law provide that it could be a well-reasoned decision for a person with a disabling condition who is not dying to terminate their life with the support of the state." The experts who issued the statement are Gerard Quinn, the UN Human Rights Council's special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Olivier De Schutter, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; and Claudia Mahler, who was described as "an independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons." They argue that everyone accepts there can be no justification for assisting "any other protected group — be it a racial minority, gender or sexual minorities — to end their lives because they are experiencing suffering on account of their status." And they say it should be no different for people with disabilities. "Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone's life directly or indirectly." Even when assisted dying is restricted to people near the end of life, they argue people with disabilities, the elderly and especially elderly people with disabilities "may feel subtly pressured to end their lives prematurely" due to societal attitudes and a lack of support services. Those living in poverty may decide to seek an assisted death "as a gesture of despair," not as a real choice, they say. The government has until Feb. 26 — after being granted three extensions — to bring the law into compliance with Baudouin's ruling. The Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee, which has already conducted a pre-study of Bill C-7, is to resume its study and consider possible amendments during three, daylong meetings, starting Monday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
A new work permit program for international students in Canada is taking applications starting today. The federal government announced the program this month as part of a bid to convince more people to settle in Canada permanently. Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said at the time that former students with post-graduation work permits that have expired or will soon expire can now apply for open work permits. The program will offer affected people 18 more months to stay in the country to look for work. The federal department estimates that about 52,000 graduates could benefit. Sarom Rho, who leads a migrant student campaign with Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, says the "massive" change will benefit many, but others are still left out. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin Wednesday warning of the lingering potential for violence from people motivated by antigovernment sentiment after President Joe Biden's election, suggesting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol may embolden extremists and set the stage for additional attacks. The department did not cite any specific plots, but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” for weeks after Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. It is not uncommon for the federal government to warn local law enforcement through bulletins about the prospect for violence tied to a particular event or date, such as July 4. But this particular bulletin, issued through the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System, is notable because it effectively places the Biden administration into the politically charged debate over how to describe or characterize acts motivated by political ideology, and suggests it regards violence like the kind that overwhelmed the Capitol as akin to terrorism. The bulletin is an indication that national security officials see a connective thread between different episodes of violence in the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, including over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results and police use of force. The document singles out crimes motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in El Paso, Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terror groups. A DHS statement that accompanied the bulletin noted the potential for violence from “a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors.” “Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said. The alert comes at a tense time following the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the presidential election. Authorities are concerned that extremists may attack other symbols of government or people whose political views they oppose. “The domestic terrorism attack on our Capitol earlier this month shined a light on a threat that has been right in front of our faces for years,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “I am glad to see that DHS fully recognizes the threat posed by violent, right-wing extremists and is taking efforts to communicate that threat to the American people.” The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate. Two former homeland security secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, called on the Senate to confirm Mayorkas so he can start working with the FBI and other agencies and deal with the threat posed by domestic extremists, among other issues. Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, said attacks by far-right, domestic extremists are not new but that deaths attributed to them in recent years in the U.S. have exceeded those linked to jihadists such as al-Qaida. “We have to be candid and face what the real risk is,” he said in a conference call with reporters. Federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege, including some with links to right-wing extremist groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers. The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against 43-year Ian Rogers, a California man found with five pipe bombs during a search of his business this month who had a sticker associated with the Three Percenters on his vehicle. His lawyer told his hometown newspaper, The Napa Valley Register, that he is a “very well-respected small business owner, father, and family man” who does not belong to any violent organizations. Ben Fox And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Newly released documents show federal officials have been aware since the fall that some new parents might be receiving a smaller amount of money than they would have if not for a change in the way COVID-19 pandemic benefits are delivered to Canadians. That is due to a shift in late September, when the employment insurance system kicked back into gear and three new benefits rolled out to replace the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that was supporting Canadians who had lost income since the spring. On Sept. 27, eligible recipients started moving on to the decades-old EI system where the minimum weekly payment was set at $500 in line with the three "recovery" benefits. Prior to that date, benefits were calculated based on earnings, meaning any new parent that started their EI claim before the change could receive less than $500 a week. The documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act note the policy created inequities, and point to a similar effect for parents who will start claims after Sept. 25 this year, when the temporary rules are set to expire. Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough's office says the government will make any necessary changes so new parents don't face "additional barriers accessing maternity or parental benefits as a result of COVID-19." Changes to the EI program can take anywhere between three and 18 months to come into force, and they generally take effect on a particular date. Claims made before that date are often ineligible unless the change is simple and very specific to avoid what the document describes as the need to review claims that began "as much as 100 weeks in the past." But the undated memo outlines multiple, rapid changes and revisions to parental benefit rules in the wake of the CERB. When partial or retroactive changes were made, more problems seem to have cropped up. There were issues with how the system handled soon-to-be-mothers applying for emergency aid, which denied them CERB payments until changes to the system could be made and back payments processed. As well, other new parents, or those waiting the birth of their child, were put directly on EI benefits if they had enough hours to qualify, while those that didn't were put on the CERB until the government came up with a fix. That fix meant a one-time reduction in the number of hours needed to qualify for benefits to address concerns that some parents would lose out on benefits because they lost work hours through no fault of their own. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 35 per cent of new mothers outside of Quebec, which has its own system, didn't qualify for federal benefits. The pandemic has shone a light on the long-standing issue around the hours requirement, said Brock University's Andrea Doucet, an expert on parental-leave programs. "This was made even worse as women lost jobs and reduced (their) hours," Doucet said. "The reduction in insurable hours was presented as temporary, but will it lead to more inclusive policies that enable more parents to make claims?" Kate Bezanson, an expert on family and labour market policy, said the document points a need for a rethink of the parental leave program, noting that leave policies work hand-in-hand with child care and employment efforts. The Liberals have said they want to create a national child-care system, part of a plan to help more mothers enter the labour market. "We want people to have babies, and take care of those babies happily, and also have jobs to return to and be able to do that seamlessly," said Bezanson, associate dean of social sciences at Brock University. "This is one of those moments where if we're looking holistically and we're looking globally at our policy portfolios, let's put them together and get them to talk to each other and make the changes that have been long overdue." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — There's a race between COVID-19 and the rollout of vaccine as researchers and health officials in B.C. warn of two faster-spreading variants. The number of variant cases may start low, but increased transmission could only be a few weeks away, just as delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is delayed, said Caroline Colijn, the Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematics for Infection, Evolution and Public Health at Simon Fraser University. Colijn's lab released modelling data this week showing public health rules in several provinces, including B.C., would not be sufficient to prevent exponential growth in cases starting around March if a COVID-19 variant with a 40 per cent higher transmission rate became established. "By established I mean some cluster doesn't get stopped and takes off and we don't notice or we don't act and we are unable to stop those chains of transmission and so they take off the way the current COVID has," she said. Colijn added she would expect public health officials to enact further restrictions before such exponential growth in variant cases. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news briefing this week that B.C. has detected three cases of a variant found in South Africa and none were linked to each other or to travel, pointing to community spread. By completing whole genome sequencing, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has also recorded six travel-related cases of the COVID-19 variant first found in the United Kingdom, which appears significantly more transmissible than earlier strains of the new coronavirus. B.C. is sequencing about 15 per cent of samples that test positive for COVID-19 in the province, said Natalie Prystajecky, head of the environmental microbiology program at the centre's public health lab. Sequencing is more labour-intensive than diagnostic testing, she said, so it can take up to two weeks to produce data from a given sample. B.C. has sequenced about 11,000 COVID-positive samples since last February and generated quality data from about 9,500 of them, she said. The average rate of sequencing across Canada is between five and 10 per cent, said Prystajecky, a member of the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network that received funding last spring to sequence 150,000 samples. In addition to targeting samples from travellers and youth, she said, B.C. is prioritizing more general, "background" sampling to understand if public health officials are missing anything, such as transmission of new variants. "We're ramping up," she said. "We did 750 genomes last week and we're aiming to continue to increase the amount of sequencing we're doing." Prystajecky said her lab is also planning to do a "point prevalence study" to screen a high number of samples at a given point in time. B.C. is taking a smart approach to sequencing by targeting travel-related cases, said Colijn, but at the rate sequencing data becomes available, "there could be 10 or 50 or 100 cases of whatever we detect at the time." Colijn believes B.C. should consider Atlantic Canada's approach and create a so-called "Pacific bubble" that would require travellers from other provinces to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in B.C. Data from Pfizer and Moderna — the pharmaceutical companies behind the two COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada — show their products still protect people against the U.K. and South African variants, said Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the molecular biology and biochemistry department at Simon Fraser University. "What this means is people really need to hunker down until this vaccine gets out into the population further," she said in an interview this week. "We really are in a race between the vaccine and the virus right now." Basic measures including physical distancing and avoiding non-essential travel are still effective in preventing new variants from spreading, she said. B.C. reported 4,260 active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday out of more than 65,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
Most countries in Europe now require people to wear facemasks on public transport and in shops. In Germany, new rules allow only medical masks to be worn on public transport and supermarkets. Euronews has visited one small factory in the German capital that is ramping up its production.View on euronews
The day is cold and overcast but inside, standing in an empty and cavernous former Target department store, Ahmed Hussein is beaming. This is where the director of the The Neighbourhood Organization in Thorncliffe Park envisions a mass vaccination site where tens of thousands of residents in this east Toronto neighbourhood could be vaccinated. This is where, he says, they could get a fair shot at making it through this pandemic. "The second wave really hit us hard," Hussein said. "We are really in a prison now. We will get out of that prison." Thorncliffe Park has been a hotspot since the start of the pandemic, with a disproportionately higher number of COVID-19 cases. According to the latest 2016 census, more than 20,000 people live there. Community leaders say the current number is much higher, with more than 30,000 people living in a three kilometre radius, a statistic they say makes the neighbourhood in Toronto's east end the most densely populated in Canada. The vast majority of residents live in apartment towers, and Hussein says families on average include five people. Most of them are newcomers and many are essential workers. How they live, and what they do, puts them at higher risk of catching COVID and spreading it. It's why Hussein is advocating to have the entire neighbourhood prioritized for vaccination. "A lot of these buildings are 15 floors, 20 floors, some of them 25 floors," Hussein said, adding that most of the aging buildings only have two working elevators. "When 2,000 or 3,000 people are coming down elevators at the same time when their kids are going to school, you can imagine how people will be close to each other, and that's the risk of spread. So having an immunization will clearly improve [safety for] people to go back to work, to earn an income, pay their rents and take care of their children." It would also help alleviate the mental health toll, he says: Canada's national advisory committee has prioritized key populations for vaccines, including residents and staff of long-term care homes and front-line health care workers. Hussein says once vaccines become more widely available, Thorncliffe Park and several other vulnerable neighbourhoods should be high on the list. This is not a case for jumping the queue, he and other advocates say. It's about reframing risk to recognize that entire pockets of people are more vulnerable because of their socioeconomic status. Hussain Rifnaz is one example. "I got the fever, and the worst was the body pain," he said. When Rifnaz got sick with COVID-19 last October, his wife and four children all got infected. Rifnaz works in public transit, servicing subway lines. He says he might have caught COVID on the job, or in his building's crowded elevators, or maybe it came from his children's school. Before Ontario's latest lockdown, Thorncliffe Park Public School was among the hardest hit in the city. Dozens of students tested positive in an asymptomatic screening pilot in December. Rifnaz said a vaccine would stop that invisible spread in the community from moving even further, as people like him have to go to work even in a lockdown. "They have a big chance of getting lots of COVID from this area, so therefore, we should be taking care of this area first as a priority. It will be helpful for the Toronto city." The City of Toronto has identified at-risk areas like Thorncliffe Park, and set up pop-up testing sites and city-run isolation centres to help identify cases and contain them. Wearing a mask, gloves and a face shield, Tabasum Mohammadi hands out flyers with information about those resources in the lobby of her building. Mohammadi is a community ambassador, and her role as a volunteer is to spread awareness about public health guidelines. Glancing toward a lineup forming for the elevators, she said being on constant guard is exhausting. Quicker access to a vaccine would ease a perpetual sense of dread. "Once we get vaccinated, at least we will reduce the numbers and we will be able to get protected," Mohammadi said. "We'll be mentally relaxed once the vaccine is here." The stress is unique to disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and it's why many are making the same case for priority access to vaccines. In the north-west neighbourhood of Weston-Mount Dennis, the buses tell the story of a community on the outskirts and struggling to get by. The bus lines here are among the busiest in Toronto, taking people to work in factories, grocery stores, and nursing homes. Those same people carry that risk back home, where many live with multiple family members. "It's not that people don't want to follow the public health regulations," Michelle Joseph, CEO of Unison Health & Community Services, said. "The issue is that they cannot always follow public health regulations. And the reason that they cannot is because there are systemic barriers that don't allow them to follow them." Joseph says the barriers are built-in and hard to overcome. Tight living conditions are one issue. So is poverty and lack of paid sick leave. Many people here tend to have multiple jobs that compound the risk of exposure, and they can't afford to miss work if they don't feel well. Early access to vaccines here is a shield of protection that is desperately needed. "These communities are often left behind," Joseph said. "It's very important that we ensure that they are not forgotten. And in this case, because they are experiencing a disproportional level of COVID and also the impacts of COVID economically, then we should make sure that they're a priority." Joseph says the risks here are too high to ignore. To strengthen that call, several communities have banded together to make a collective case for prioritization. Tied by common threads of inequity, it's a call that grows more urgent by the day. Further west of Weston-Mount Dennis, in the community of Rexdale, for many it has come down to survival. At a community hub, local volunteers like Bibi Hack package bags of donated food. Hack says the need has skyrocketed as more people lose jobs or are too sick to work. "They don't have transportation, they don't have money, and they're scared to go out. This is so helpful, without this I don't know how a lot of people would survive, believe me." Pascal Lumbala is the manager of the COVID Community Response with Rexdale Community Health Centre. Standing outside a COVID-19 testing centre set up in the community to make testing more accessible, Lumbala says while up to 200 people a day have been tested at three testing sites in the area, many in the low-income neighbourhood are reluctant to come because a positive result would mean staying home and missing work. "These people have bills and they have to pay those bills," Lumbala said. "Because of that fear, this could be an issue for them to go to work, so they don't get tested": As is the case in other vulnerable communities, many people here live in high-rises. The spread of infection, with several family members living in one space and usually with one bathroom, is almost inevitable, says Lumbala. Getting a vaccine soon could give people here a better chance of staying healthy and simply staying afloat. But he adds that there is a need to educate people about the vaccine in order to help combat hesitancy. "We are working on some messages," Lumbala said. "We are working on having some workshops to educate the population so they will understand the importance of getting this vaccine and to protect the entire community." Back in Thorncliffe Park, Mohammadi continues handing out flyers, undeterred by people who don't bother to take one. She says until vaccines become more widely available, she too will educate people about the need to get immunized and will keep making the case for safety. Mohammadi has four children, and says she owes it to them and everyone in her community. "It's a home here, and I want to protect all my family members. This building is a home for me." But while the case to prioritize whole neighbourhoods for immunization is compelling, the outcome is uncertain. Government and public health authorities decide who gets the vaccine and in what order, and it's not clear when communities advocating for priority access will find out where they end up on any list. The city of Toronto and local health authorities are supporting the initiative, but the province of Ontario will make the call once it starts offering vaccines to the general public. Meanwhile, there's no denying the need, or the commitment to keep fighting because of it. Back at the former Target store where community leader Ahmed Hussein wants to set up a mass vaccination site, there's now a temporary food bank. It was established during the pandemic and Hussein wants nothing more than to see it go. "COVID created this, and we hope the immunization and the vaccines will shut it down." Arms wide open, Hussein looks around the empty space and says he sees only promise, and better days ahead. "It symbolizes to us a hope that we are able to carry out the immunization for this community, this wonderful space that is available that we can immunize thousands and thousands of people." Hussein added with a broad smile, "It symbolizes that this is a space of hope, this is a space that we will say 'Goodbye COVID.'" Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.
A slugfest between Wall Street and Main Street took an unexpected turn late on Wednesday after moderators of a stock trading forum that has helped fuel massive rallies in the shares of GameStop temporarily closed its doors. Shares of GameStop, AMC Entertainment, Koss Corp and BlackBerry all dropped at least 20% moments after the shuttering of the forum, highlighting the role it has played in fueling stock rallies that many say have been driven primarily by retail investors.
Answering growing frustration over vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. is ramping up deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall. Biden, calling the push a “wartime effort,” said Tuesday the administration was working to buy an additional 100 million doses of each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines. He acknowledged that states in recent weeks have been left guessing how much vaccine they will have from one week to the next. Shortages have been so severe that some vaccination sites around the U.S. had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first shot. “This is unacceptable," Biden said. "Lives are at stake.” He promised a roughly 16% boost in deliveries to states over the next three weeks. The administration said it plans to buy another 100 million doses each from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna to ensure it has enough vaccine for the long term. Even more vaccine could be available if federal scientists approve a single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to seek emergency authorization in the coming weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the government plans to make about 10.1 million first and second doses available next week, up from this week’s allotment of 8.6 million. The figures represent doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It was not immediately clear how long the surge of doses could be sustained. Governors and top health officials have been increasingly raising the alarm about inadequate supplies and the need for earlier and more reliable estimates of how much vaccine is on the way so that they can plan. Biden's team held its first virus-related call with the nation's governors on Tuesday and pledged to provide states with firm vaccine allocations three weeks ahead of delivery. Biden's announcement came a day after he grew more bullish about exceeding his vaccine pledge to deliver 100 million injections in his first 100 days in office, suggesting that a rate of 1.5 million doses per day could soon be achieved. The administration has also promised more openness and said it will hold news briefings three times a week, beginning Wednesday, about the outbreak that has killed more than 425,000 people in the United States. “We appreciate the administration stating that it will provide states with slightly higher allocations for the next few weeks, but we are going to need much more supply," said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican. The setup inherited from the Trump administration has been marked by miscommunication and unexplained bottlenecks, with shortages reported in some places even as vaccine doses remain on the shelf. Officials in West Virginia, which has had one of the best rates of administering vaccine, said they have fewer than 11,000 first doses on hand even after this week’s shipment. “I’m screaming my head off” for more, Republican Gov. Jim Justice said. California, which has faced criticism over a slow vaccine rollout, announced Tuesday that it is centralizing its hodgepodge of county systems and streamlining appointment sign-up, notification and eligibility. Residents have been baffled by the varying rules in different counties. And in Colorado, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said that the limited supply of vaccine from the federal government is prompting the state to repurpose second doses as first doses, though he expects that people scheduled for their second shot will still be able to keep their appointments. The weekly allocation cycle for first doses begins on Monday nights, when federal officials review data on vaccine availability from manufacturers to determine how much each state can have. Allocations are based on each jurisdiction’s population of people 18 and older. States are notified on Tuesdays of their allocations through a computer network called Tiberius and other channels, after which they can specify where they want doses shipped. Deliveries start the following Monday. A similar but separate process for ordering second doses, which must be given three to four weeks after the first, begins each week on Sunday night. As of Tuesday afternoon, the CDC reported that just over half of the 44 million doses distributed to states have been put in people’s arms. That is well short of the hundreds of millions of doses that experts say will need to be administered to achieve herd immunity and conquer the outbreak. The U.S. ranks fifth in the world in the number of doses administered relative to the country’s population, behind No. 1 Israel, United Arab Emirates, Britain and Bahrain, according to the University of Oxford. The reason more of the available shots in the U.S. haven’t been dispensed isn’t entirely clear. But many vaccination sites are apparently holding large quantities of vaccine in reserve to make sure people who have already gotten their first shot receive the required second one on schedule. Also, some state officials have complained of a lag between when they report their vaccination numbers to the government and when the figures are posted on the CDC website. In the New Orleans area, Ochsner Health said Monday that inadequate supply forced the cancellation last week of 21,400 first-dose appointments but that second-dose appointments aren’t affected. In North Carolina, Greensboro-based Cone Health announced it is cancelling first-dose appointments for 10,000 people and moving them to a waiting list because of supply problems. Jesse Williams, 81, of Reidsville, North Carolina, said his appointment Thursday with Cone Health was scratched, and he is waiting to hear when it might be rescheduled. The former volunteer firefighter had hoped the vaccine would enable him to resume attending church, playing golf and seeing friends. “It’s just a frustration that we were expecting to be having our shots and being a little more resilient to COVID-19,” he said. The vaccine rollout across the 27-nation European Union has also run into roadblocks and has likewise been criticized as too slow. Pfizer is delaying deliveries while it upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase capacity. And AstraZeneca disclosed that its initial shipment will be smaller than expected. The EU, with 450 million citizens, is demanding that the pharmaceutical companies meet their commitments on schedule. ___ Associated Press writers around the U.S. contributed to this report. ___ Find AP’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic Jonathan Drew And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Genomic sequencing will be key in determining the prevalence of new, more transmissible variants of COVID-19 in Canada, experts say, but the process is too laborious and time-consuming to run on every positive swab. While that means we likely can't know the exact number of cases stemming from the "variants of concern," first identified in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, experts say genomic sequencing can unlock useful information about where and how quickly spread may be happening.The Canadian Press spoke with microbiologists and laboratory science specialists to answer popular questions about the new variants, and what we're doing to detect them.HOW IS GENOMIC SEQUENCING DONE?Positive samples, typically taken from travel-related cases or those that were otherwise flagged for sequencing, are sent to a specific lab which has the equipment required to get a closer look at the virus's genetic code. From there, a specially-trained scientist looks for mutations and changes from the main SARS-CoV-2 virus, going through the code line by line. The process, which can take anywhere from a couple days to a full week, is tedious, expensive and requires a level of scientific equipment and knowledge only accessible in a handful of labs across the country, says Dr. Tony Mazzulli, a medical microbiologist at Public Health Ontario Laboratory."You need the supplies, the reagents, and you need people with the expertise who can a) do it and b) interpret the results once the test is finished," said Mazzulli, who's also the microbiologist-in-chief of the Mount Sinai Hospital. "It's not just like a diagnostic test that is either a yes or no."HOW OFTEN ARE WE DOING IT?Ontario, which had 34 total known cases of the B.1.1.7 variant from the U.K. as of Monday, is undergoing a point-prevalence study in which all positive test results in the province from a single day — Jan. 20 — are being analyzed through genomic sequencing. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario has analyzed 9,000 samples for the new variants and hopes to look at 1,500 every week going forward.Public Health Ontario also says it is introducing screening tests that can look for a mutation that's found in the three concerning variants. Dr. Vanessa Allen, the chief of microbiology at the Public Health Ontario Lab, said in a press conference Monday the new tests will help identify "high-risk samples," that will then be sent to labs for sequencing. Mazzulli says some of Canada's standard PCR tests can also pick up a hint — known as the S-gene dropout — that the sample should be sequenced. PCR tests give us a yes or no answer as to whether a person is infected, but they also look for specific genes in the virus, Mazzulli explained. If the S gene, which has the mutation, is missing from the diagnostic, that's an indication the sample should be sent in for further sequencing.Mazzulli also says Ontario is building capacity and developing further criteria for samples that should be sequenced, including those from outbreaks where a group of cases are associated with each other.In B.C., where according to data released Monday there have been three confirmed cases South Africa variant and six cases of the U.K. variant, top doctor Bonnie Henry said the province is working on strategies to see where it can target genomic sequencing to better understand changes and variants circulating in the community. About 9,500 quality sequences have been performed in the province since February, which amounts to sampling approximately 15 per cent of cases, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. WHY CAN'T WE SEQUENCE EVERY POSITIVE COVID TEST WE GET?Joel Rivero, field application system specialist who helps set up molecular and immunodiagnostic tests at labs across Canada, says that boils down to capacity and lab resources.While sequencing every sample is ideal to get a full picture, Rivero says that probably wouldn't get you the best "return on investment."Since most variant cases are still travel-related, it's best to concentrate efforts there, he says, in hopes of catching those quickly to limit spread."We want to make sure there's a fine balance between your resource management and what makes the most sense to help identify and protect public health."Rivero adds that the COVID treatment plan and contact tracing efforts remain the same whether the patient has "a variant strain or the quote-unquote regular strain.""Everyone will still have to isolate whether they have the variant or not," he said.WILL CURRENT VACCINES WORK AGAINST NEW VARIANTS?Dr. Samira Mubareka, a microbiologist and clinical scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, says part of the importance of genome sequencing is in understanding which mutations are showing up and figuring out what they do.And that can have potential implications on vaccines and other treatments.Mubareka and other experts say they're hopeful current vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will still work against the variant strains — at least to some extent."It's really unlikely to go from 95 per cent effectiveness of a vaccine to zero," she said, adding however that there may be some reduction of effectiveness against the variants."But from what I understand from preliminary data, it's still anticipated to be above what would be protective at this stage."Mubareka says the emergence of the new variants means vaccines currently being developed will need to be tested against the latest strains rather than older versions to properly measure efficacy. Some of our established vaccines could need updates down the line. Moderna announced Monday it was planning to test booster vaccines aimed at the B.1.351 variant first found in South Africa, noting the current formula had a six-fold reduction in the effectiveness of its neutralizing antibodies. Despite the reduction, the company says those levels are still believed to offer protection. The nature of mRNA technology, which Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna both use in their vaccines, is that an updated shot with a new target could theoretically be made quickly, if needed.However, Mubareka says any new vaccine would presumably need to go through a review process and trials to determine safety and efficacy. So updated inoculations won't be popping up overnight. WHAT DO THE NEW VARIANTS MEAN FROM A PUBLIC HEALTH STANDPOINT?As of right now, public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of our current dominant strain — physical distancing, hand-washing, mask-wearing — will work to fend off these variants. Travel takes on greater significance with the more transmissible versions of the virus, however, with some experts calling for further restrictions and more strict enforcement of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone coming into the country.COVID projections from Caroline Colijn, a mathematician and epidemiologist with Simon Fraser University, show a potentially grim picture for the next few months, with a skyrocketing spring wave fuelled by community spread of more contagious variants.But if the variants aren't yet firmly established here, we have time to prevent that flagrant spread, she says."If we can push that peak out to September, we may be able to avert it if most of us are vaccinated by then."Mubareka cautions, however, that new variants will continue to arise as long as the virus is spreading. So limiting contacts and abiding by other public health measures is important in making sure we don't get a series of strains that could slip past our mitigation strategies."We play an important part in preventing the likelihood that we will become a vector for one of these variants," she said. "Every time one of these viruses passes through a host, it provides an opportunity not just for spread, but also for adaptation."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Marian Turski, a 94-year-old survivor of the Auschwitz death camp, marked the 76th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet troops on Wednesday only virtually, aware that he might never return as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. Survivors and museum officials told Reuters they fear the pandemic could end the era where Auschwitz's former prisoners can tell their own stories to visitors on site. Most Auschwitz survivors are in their eighties and nineties.
Quantum Genetix, a laboratory licensed to perform COVID-19 testing in Saskatchewan for profit, has expanded its licence to include anyone in the province who is asymptomatic and wishes to be tested. The Saskatoon lab started processing samples at the beginning of December. At that time the company was only doing travel- and business-related testing in Saskatchewan. Testing kits are $150 and results are emailed to clients within 48 hours. For same-day rush service, testing kits are $250. Quantum Genetix has been very busy since December, according to Heather Deobald, the lab's general manager. The lab has served more than 100 businesses and more than 1,000 travelers so far. "We requested to have our licence expanded because from the start we've been getting requests from Saskatchewan residents who didn't fall under the business or travel related scope that we were given our licence through." Individuals and businesses can order testing kits by mail from Quantum Genetix. Kits contain self-administered nasal and oral swabs, and detailed instructions on how to use them. "Before we were able to do the testing, people were struggling sometimes with having turnaround times that they could utilize and still be able to go out and do their work or whatever they needed the test for," said Deobald. "So I think people are just relieved that they had another option." Deobold says there are many reasons Sask. residents are willing to pay for a quick test. "People waiting for surgery, people who have compassion permission to go into a care facility, families with immunocompromised family members. Single family members who are having another family member come into their home. Or two single people wanting to get together," said Deobald. After receiving the kit, clients can either courier their specimen to the Saskatoon laboratory or drop it off on-location at a kiosk there. Deobald said Quantum Genetix is working on making the process easier for anyone in the province, including those in the north. "We're actually right now working with another private business in Saskatchewan who will help us to expand into all areas of the province," she said. "We should have the news on that and more information on that hopefully next week."
BERLIN — A German state governor has apologized for referring to Chancellor Angela Merkel as “little Merkel” during a recent online event, saying he had unintentionally displayed macho behaviour. Bodo Ramelow, who governs the state of Thuringia, told German weekly Die Zeit that he greatly regretted using the term “Merkelchen” while talking chatting with other politicians and the public on the social networking app Clubhouse. Die Zeit on Wednesday quoted Ramelow saying that he should have used the diminutive form in reference to male politicians. “Instead, I spoke about a woman. That was dumb and appeared disrespectful,” he said. Ramelow, a member of the Left Party, said he had since apologized personally to Merkel. The 64-year-old has also faced criticism for playing the game “Candy Crush” during lengthy video meetings with Merkel and other governors to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. He defended playing games on his smartphone, saying he only did so during lulls in the meeting when others were replying to emails or going outside to smoke. The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Quebec's director of national health said he's still not sure when the province will begin administering COVID-19 booster shots — 43 days since officials started injecting people with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Dr. Horacio Arruda said Tuesday that while he doesn't want Quebecers to wait more than seven weeks to receive a booster shot, he said he was still waiting to hear back from government scientists studying the efficacy of the vaccine among those who received their first of two injections. Quebec has taken a different approach from other provinces, focusing on giving a first dose to as many people as possible before giving anyone a second, a strategy that Arruda maintains will save more lives and keep more people out of hospital at a time when vaccine supplies are limited. "We did it because we don't have enough vaccine," he told reporters. Vaccine maker Pfizer has said the second dose of its vaccine should be given within 21 days. Moderna, the maker of the other vaccine approved for use in Canada, has set the date for the second shot at 28 days. Ottawa's National Advisory Committee on Immunization, however, has said the second dose of both vaccines can wait up to 42 days. Relatives of long-term care residents say they don't believe the government is making a science-based decision. Quebec is "playing Russian roulette with our loved ones' lives," Joyce Shanks, member of the Maimonides Family Advocacy Committee, said Monday. Her group, which represents residents of the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Montreal, is considering suing the government over its vaccine strategy. Her father, a Maimonides resident, was one of the first people in Quebec to get a dose of vaccine, on Dec. 14. "We signed up for the two doses. We did not sign up to be part of a clinical trial," Shanks said. Kathy Assayag, chair of the users' committee at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, said the government's vaccine strategy is "a mistake." "It's a gamble and we cannot gamble with people's lives." Experts, however, differ on whether Quebec's plan is a well-calculated risk or an ill-fated wager. Dr. Caroline Quach, chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, said the committee's guideline that patients can wait up to 42 days between injections is based on trials from vaccine makers. Trial participants, she said, were encouraged to return after 21 or 28 days from their first injection — depending on whether they received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine — but she said they were allowed to return up to 42 days later. "The problem after the 42 days is that we don't have any data," Quach said. While it's possible a single dose remains effective after 42 days, she said, there's a decent risk its efficacy decreases, but no one knows how fast that could happen. "We know that the second dose helps with the maturation of the antibodies," Quach said. "The two companies decided that a second dose was needed, so we have no data with only one dose and we have no data with extended intervals." Dr. Andre Veillette, a research professor at the Universite de Montreal's department of medicine and a member of the federal government's COVID-19 vaccine task force, said the further Quebec moves away from what's been proven in clinical trials, the higher the chance the vaccine won't have the same results. "I think it's a gamble," he said. "I think there's not enough information." Veillette said he's particularly worried about older people who generally don't respond as well to vaccines as younger people do. Even in a situation with constrained supply, he said the government should stick to the vaccine schedule that's been proven in clinical trials. "Take the drops as they come and give them the way they're supposed to be given," Veillette said. While the results of the vaccination campaign in Israel have raised concerns about the amount of protection given by the first dose of vaccine, Dr. Donald Sheppard, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology at McGill University's faculty of medicine, said the data matches what was demonstrated in the clinical trials. The protection offered by both vaccines 14 days after the first shot exceeds 90 per cent, he said. Studies of other vaccines indicate the timing of the second dose isn't critical, Sheppard added. But, he said, there's no specific data on the consequences of delaying the COVID-19 vaccines. Like other provinces, Quebec has been forced to manage with fewer COVID-19 vaccines than anticipated, following Pfizer's recent decision to suspend deliveries to upgrade its European production facility. As a result, Quebec doesn't expect to receive any vaccine shipments this week. The Health Department said Tuesday it had received 238,100 doses of vaccine and had administered 224,879. Given the shortage of vaccine and the high number of COVID-19 cases in Quebec, Sheppard said he thinks the government made the right calculation — though if there were fewer cases or more doses, he added, there wouldn't have been the need to take the risk. "But that's not where we are right now, in January, in Quebec," he said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
The Himalayan nation of Nepal launched its largest immunisation campaign on Wednesday with its first coronavirus vaccinations for medical workers, following a gift of one million doses from giant neighbour India. Wearing a traditional black peaked cap and sleeveless red vest, a doctor at a teaching hospital in the capital, Kathmandu, became the first recipient of a dose taken from a bed of ice in a cubical blue cooler and injected by masked and gowned staff. "We have a new weapon now and I hope we will be able to defeat the coronavirus soon," said Dinesh Kafle, 50, after he was applauded by those queuing for their turn while he sat in a white-walled room before a poster advertising the campaign.
The Canadian Paediatric Society is reminding families that the process of raising a reader starts from birth.The association is encouraging health-care providers to talk to parents about the importance of reading, speaking and singing to children every day from the beginning of infancy.In a news release Wednesday, CPS says babies' brains grow when adults respond to their babbles, and these early interactions can affect language development and literacy skills.Dr. Alyson Shaw, who authored the CPS guidelines on early literacy, says families should talk to their doctors about the many ways they can support their children's language development.CPS says babies benefit from communication in any language, and while books are a useful tool, singing and storytelling can also help children pick up on new words and sentence structures.CPS says literacy is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
Curl P.E.I. suspects the province's self-isolation rules are behind a poor turnout in this year's Scotties and Brier provincial qualifiers. Both events are going ahead this weekend in O'Leary, with just two women's and two men's teams competing for the right to represent the Island at the national curling championships in Calgary, slated for late February and early March. "This is the smallest provincials I've ever been a part of," said Suzanne Birt, the skip for one of the two women's teams competing, and the Island's representative at the Scotties the past two years. "It's a little different for sure." But Birt said she's hardly surprised. P.E.I.'s representatives will have to enter a curling bubble in Calgary for up to two weeks, sticking to their hotel rooms and the arena. There'll be no friends, family, or other fans allowed inside the bubble. Then upon their return to P.E.I., curlers will have to self-isolate for another 14 days. "[Curling] is what we love to do," said Birt. "But at the same time, it's a little disheartening thinking about your family, that you have to be away from them for a month.… It's a lot to take on, and a lot of commitment from the team and our families." You need almost a month of time from your employment, from school, whatever it might be. — Peter Gallant While Birt and her teammates have been able to juggle their schedules and make it work, Curl P.E.I. says that likely wasn't an option for many teams. "I think it's strictly due to the whole situation with the bubble. There are a lot of teams that decided not to enter, just because you need almost a month of time from your employment, from school, whatever it might be," said Peter Gallant, Curl P.E.I.'s performance director. "But I think everybody's happy that there's a couple teams that can have a championship." Fortunate on P.E.I. P.E.I. is one of just a few places going ahead with Scotties and Brier qualifiers. In some provinces, given their COVID-19 situations and tougher restrictions, curling is off the ice all together. Most provinces have nominated representatives to head to Calgary, or selected last year's winners. "We are so fortunate here in P.E.I., and we are so thankful that we've had curling ice to practise on, and play games. And I'm very very thankful we live here," said Birt. "The teams that are on P.E.I., they ultimately have a distinct advantage over some of the other teams, just because of the time on ice," added Gallant. "Now, that being said, they still have to work hard to do well at a national championship. But I think the extra ice time is certainly going to benefit them." 'Eat, sleep, and curl' In both the Scotties and Brier qualifiers this weekend, the two teams will curl in a best-of-five championship. In Birt's case, even if her rink loses, they'll still be heading to Calgary. Curling Canada has expanded this year's field to include a few wild-card teams. Based on their national rankings, Birt and her rink have already earned a wild-card spot. The prospect of travelling to Alberta, where COVID-19 is much more prevalent, doesn't have her concerned. "Me personally, I think it's going to be the safest environment possible," she said. "We go to Calgary, we go straight to the bubble and we don't leave. We eat, sleep, and curl." More from CBC P.E.I.