Guess Who Pays For All Those Millions Of COVID 19 Vaccines

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

2:15 p.m.: As students prepare to return to in-person classes on Monday, the president of the Nova Scotia teachers union says he has “severe doubts” whether schools will remain open until the end of the week.

Paul Wozney says he believes the governmetn has been “overselling” its plan to help schools remain open as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to sweep through the province.

Wozney says schools had to be closed earlier than anticipated before the holiday break when staffing levels couldn’t be maintained with daily case numbers for COVID-19 that were much lower than they are now.He says the province should exercise caution and continue with remote learning until case numbers are more manageable as has been done in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Education Minister Becky Druhan told reporters following a cabinet meeting Thursday that plans are in place to respond to whatever operational challenges arise.

Druhan says that includes assigning administrative staff from school districts to the classroom in the event of teacher shortages due to illness or the need to self-isolate.

1 p.m.: Nova Scotia is reporting 68 people are now in hospital due to COVID-19 and are receiving specialized care in a designated unit.

That number is up from the 58 admissions reported Saturday, while the number of patients in intensive care remains the same at 10.

There is no word today on the number of people who have been discharged from hospital after being sick with an infection.

Officials say two other groups are also in hospital with infections; 60 people who were identified as positive upon arrival but who were admitted for another medical reason and 112 who contracted the virus after being admitted.

The province also reported 696 new confirmed COVID-19 cases today — an increase of 69 from the 627 reported on Saturday.

Officials say 447 cases have been identified in the Halifax area, 108 in the province’s eastern zone, 105 in the western zone and 36 in the northern zone.

1 p.m.: Parents and teachers in four provinces are preparing for students to return to the classroom on Monday as the Omicron variant-fuelled wave of COVID-19 continues to spread.

Kids in Ontario and Quebec, Canada’s largest provinces, will resume in-person learning after their governments delayed their return in the face of record-setting case numbers over the holidays.

Ontario today reported 3,595 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, with 579 in intensive care.

The latest figures represent a drop from the day before, but Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted not all hospitals report their COVID-19 numbers over the weekend.

Quebec, meanwhile, says hospitalizations rose by 105 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of patients to 3,300.

Manitoba and Nova Scotia will also send kids back to the classroom on Monday, with Nova Scotia being the only province in the Atlantic region to be doing so.

While public health experts, parents and officials agree that in-school learning is best for children, school boards, families and unions say they’re bracing for an increase in staff absences because of the virus.

Ontario and Nova Scotia also plan to supply students with rapid antigen tests as one of the safety precautions to keep schools open.

11:45 a.m.: Quebec is reporting yet another jump in COVID-19-related hospitalizations today, saying the figure climbed by 105 in the past 24 hours and now stands at 3,300.

The provincial health department says 282 patients are currently in intensive care, an increase of seven from the previous day.

The province is also reporting 5,946 new cases of COVID-19, with 21 more deaths related to the virus.

Authorities say 81,564 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the past 24 hours, including 71,724 third doses.

It also says 13.1 per cent of the 39,806 COVID-19 tests processed in the last 24 hours came back positive.

In-person learning is set to resume Monday for Quebec’s elementary and high school students even as COVID-19 infections continue to surge across the province.

11:32 a.m.: The federal government’s COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers entering the country are a “drain” on capacity so overwhelmed by the Omicron surge that officials can only guess the true number of daily infections, Canada’s top public health officer says.

While Dr. Theresa Tam stopped short of calling for the requirements to be dropped, she said she believes it is time to stop “sequencing” COVID-19 samples from travellers arriving from abroad at Canadian airports, given the global prevalence of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

That means specialists Ottawa contracted to conduct the tests would no longer perform a procedure to determine whether each detected case is Omicron or another form of the virus.

Read the full story from the Star’s Alex Ballingall.

11:30 a.m.: Most Ontario long-term care workers have just under two weeks to get their third COVID-19 vaccine doses, but union and industry groups say more time is needed to meet the government’s target as staff infections reach record levelsand workers struggle to access appointments.

The government has mandated booster doses for workers in the sector, citing the heightened risk to vulnerable residents living in the homes that saw thousands of deaths and outbreaks earlier in the pandemic.

Workers, volunteers and students have until Jan. 28 to get their third shots and stay on the job, if enough time has passed since their second dose. People who became eligible for boosters after Jan. 1 have until March 14 to get third shots, and those with recent COVID-19 infections will also have more time to get their jabs.

The Long-Term Care Ministry says the majority of staff are currently eligible for third doses. As of Jan. 12, close to 64 per cent of those people had already gotten third shots, a spokesman said Friday, adding that “the expectation remains that eligible staff receive a third dose by Jan. 28.”

But with the Omicron variant driving outbreaks, worker absences and staff infections to record-breaking numbers, those on the inside say the target – though important to protecting residents – will be nearly impossible to reach sector-wide in time.

10:15 a.m. (updated): Ontario is reporting 3,595 patients are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 579 in intensive care units.

The new figures represent a decrease from the 3,957 patients in hospital on Saturday, but Health Minister Christine Elliott notes not all hospitals report their numbers on weekends.

The province is also reporting 40 new virus-related deaths today.

The number of people on ventilators due to COVID-19 surged to 340 from 319 the day before.

The province is reporting 10,450 new COVID-19 cases, though Public Health Ontario has noted that the total number is likely higher due to testing policy changes that limit access for many residents.

Provincial data shows 91.4 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 88.7 per cent have two doses.

9 a.m.: The World Health Organization said Sunday that a UN-backed program shipping coronavirus vaccines to many poor countries has now delivered 1 billion doses, but that milestone “is only a reminder of the work that remains” after hoarding and stockpiling in rich countries.

A shipment of 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Rwanda on Saturday included the billionth dose supplied via the COVAX program, the U.N. health agency said.

WHO has long criticized unequal distribution of vaccines and called for manufacturers and other countries to prioritize COVAX. It said that, as of Thursday, 36 of its 194 member countries had vaccinated less than 10% of their population and 88 had vaccinated less than 40%.

The program has made deliveries to 144 countries so far, “but the work that has gone into this milestone is only a reminder of the work that remains,” WHO said in a statement.

“COVAX’s ambition was compromised by hoarding/stockpiling in rich countries, catastrophic outbreaks leading to borders and supply being locked,” it added. “And a lack of sharing of licenses, technology and know-how by pharmaceutical companies meant manufacturing capacity went unused.”

At the end of December, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged everyone to make a “new year’s resolution” to get behind a campaign to vaccinate 70% of countries’ populations by the beginning of July.

In a newspaper interview published Sunday, Germany’s new international development minister said she wants to use her country’s presidency this year of the Group of Seven industrial nations to ensure that COVAX gets the resources it needs in 2022.

“Unfortunately, there are still too few countries participating in the financing of the global vaccination campaign,” Svenja Schulze was quoted as telling the Funke newspaper group. “Alongside Sweden, Norway, Canada and the U.S., we are the ones who are giving most. The other industrial countries have significant ground to catch up.”

9 a.m.: COVID-19 infections are soaring again at U.S. nursing homes because of the omicron wave, and deaths are climbing too, leading to new restrictions on family visits and a renewed push to get more residents and staff members vaccinated and boosted.

Nursing homes were the lethal epicentre of the pandemic early on, before the vaccine allowed many of them to reopen to visitors last year. But the wildly contagious variant has dealt them a setback.

Nursing homes reported a near-record of about 32,000 COVID-19 cases among residents in the week ending Jan. 9, an almost sevenfold increase from a month earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A total of 645 COVID-19-related deaths among residents were recorded during the same week, a 47% increase from the earlier period. And there are fears that deaths could go much higher before omicron is through.

Despite the rising numbers, the situation is not as dire as it was in December 2020, when nursing home deaths per week topped out at about 6,200. Experts credit the high vaccination rates now among nursing home residents: About 87% are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

9 a.m.: Dr. Kieran Quinn says he’s noticed a shift in attitude among his friends, colleagues and community members during the Omicron wave of COVID-19, as preventive vigilance has eroded into resignation that infection seems inevitable.

The clinician-scientist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital says he can sympathize with this sense of pandemic fatigue as the Omicron variant rages across Canada, ushering in another round of public health restrictions and backlogged demand for tests and COVID-19 vaccines.

As Omicron gains a reputation as a “mild” virus variant, Quinn says he sees why some people might feel tempted to “let it rip” in hopes of moving on from the pandemic’s latest and in some cases most overwhelming wave.

But Quinn and other doctors say Canadians can’t afford to be so cavalier about Omicron, because while the risks of infection seem lower to some individuals, abetting the variant’s supercharged spread would have devastating consequences across society.

“We need to look beyond ourselves and protect those around us who are most vulnerable,” said Quinn. “Omicron is not going to spare those people if we throw caution to the wind and ‘let it rip.’”

Emerging evidence suggests Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than previous COVID-19 strains, but Quinn said those relative differences still translate into absolute numbers that make the new variant’s impact on the health system anything but mild.

Britain’s public health agency released preliminary data last month that found people with the Omicron variant were between 50 to 70 per cent less likely to require hospitalization than those with the Delta strain.

But research also indicates that Omicron is several times more transmissible than its predecessors, Quinn said, adding that even if a smaller proportion of infected people need medical attention, the sheer volume of cases would overwhelm hospitals.

9 a.m.: Aussie rules. And Novak Djokovic is out.

Kicked to the curb at the Australian Open, steered towards a plane for deportation, driven into infamy as the world’s most famous anti-vaxxer. Not a boastful distinction, even though Djokovic has been exalted to martyr loftiness among the disbelievers.

Shortly before 2 a.m., Toronto time, Chief Justice James Allsop announced the unanimous decision of full court hearing, dismissing Djokovic’s appeal of his deportation order. It had taken the three judges some four hours of deliberation on the matter.

Go. Leave. Begone. And pay the government’s court costs as you exit — a further humiliation for the intractable vaccine loather.

Djokovic’s visa was irreversibly cancelled. He was obligated to depart the country before the Open gets underway Monday. He also faces a three-year ban from returning, except in certain circumstances, that can include “compelling circumstances that affect the interests of Australia’’. Presumably that could mean the Australian Open in 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Read the full column from the Star’s Rosie DiManno.

9 a.m.: State media are reporting the Chinese city of Xi’an has gradually begun lifting restrictions after over three weeks of lockdown as authorities sought to stamp out a local outbreak.

State-owned broadcaster CCTV reported Sunday that certain counties and development zones in Xi’an had begun restoring production, citing a news conference by Xi’an officials.

They also said that lockdown measures had been either partially or completely lifted in some communities that have been designated as lower risk, allowing people to leave their homes for a limited time to purchase daily necessities.

The partial lifting of measures comes after the city went into strict lockdown on Dec. 22, following a local coronavirus outbreak that officials attributed to the delta variant. The city has reported over 2,000 infections since December last year.

China is seeking to stamp out local transmission of the omicron and delta variants with its “zero COVID” policy. Several municipalities and cities in the southern province of Guangdong as well as Beijing have in recent days reported local cases of the more contagious omicron variant.

9 a.m.: Health Canada’s chief medical adviser says variant-specific vaccines can be approved faster than the general ones first issued to combat COVID-19, but one targeting the Omicron strain still likely won’t be ready in time to help with the latest wave.

Dr. Supriya Sharma said what is really needed are vaccines that can possibly stop more than one variant at a time, including those yet to come.

Omicron became the dominant variant in Canada in just over two weeks, and the Public Health Agency of Canada said Friday it’s now believed to be responsible for more than 90 per cent of all COVID-19 cases.

Studies suggest two doses of the existing mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are not good at preventing infection from Omicron.

Multiple studies, however, suggest the vaccines are excellent at keeping symptoms mild, preventing hospitalizations, and shortening the stay and lowering the level of care for those who do get admitted to hospital. Fewer vaccinated Omicron patients, for example, need mechanical ventilation.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are working on new versions of their vaccines that specifically target the Omicron variant.

Source :

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 3,595 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 579 in ICUs, 40 more deaths and at least 10,450 new cases

Source:The Star

Today’s coronavirus news: Ontario reporting 3,595 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 579 in ICUs, 40 more deaths and at least 10,450 new cases

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