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Today’s coronavirus news: Canadian poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness; China, WHO too slow in virus response, panel says

Today’s coronavirus news: Canadian poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness; China, WHO too slow in virus response, panel says
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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

7:55 a.m. Dr. Lisa Salamon has long known that Scarborough was hurtling towards a deadly second wave.

At Scarborough Health Network, where she works in the emergency department, intensive care units have been filling with COVID-19 patients since September. While other hospitals have only recently hit capacity issues, SHN first started off-loading patients in November. Positivity rates at the hospital are hovering around 20 per cent or higher — and have been for weeks.

But nothing prepared Salamon for what she saw on a recent shift. “It was the most difficult shift of my career,” she said. “The patients were so sick.

“I just felt like everyone around was dying, or had died.”

7:34 a.m. Ontario Premier Doug Ford and retired Gen. Rick Hillier are holding an update today at 1 p.m. about COVID vaccinations.

7:30 a.m. For the second weekend in a row , the number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Ontario dropped substantially compared to weekday vaccinations, a trend that is alarming experts as deaths from the virus in long-term care continue to mount.

Just 11,007 shots of the new vaccine were given out on Saturday, down from 14,460 the previous day. On Sunday, the number of doses administered dropped again to 9,691. The dip was consistent with what occurred on the weekend of Jan. 9 to 10, when vaccine administration also took a steep drop.

In the last two weeks, weekday vaccine administration has averaged nearly 13,000 shots per day. But during the last two weekends, doses have averaged less than 10,000 per day.

7:20 a.m. Anticipated delays for the next month to shipments of doses from Pfizer/BioNTech — one of the two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada — are upending vaccination programs from coast to coast.

The delays, reportedly the result of production issues in Belgium , highlight the logistical challenges that lie ahead as a global vaccination effort unfurls.

But they also raise the question of when Canada will have more than two vaccines on tap.

6:33 a.m.: Adults over 70, starting with those over 80 and going down by five years as supplies become available, are identified as among the first groups to get the vaccine in national recommendations. But in Ontario, even as some hospital executives and communications staff have already had the chance to sign up for the shots, they’re still months away from getting them.

It’s something that has some experts and advocates asking why some of the province’s most vulnerable residents, after those in long-term care, are not being moved to the front of the line.

Read the full story from the Star’s May Warren here.

6:25 a.m.: India’s homegrown vaccine developer Bharat Biotech has warned people with weaker immunity and other medical conditions that include allergies, fever, or a bleeding disorder to consult a doctor before getting the shot — and if possible avoid the vaccine.

The vaccine by Bharat Biotech ran into controversy after the Indian government allowed its use without concrete data that showed it was effective in preventing illness from COVID-19. Tens of thousands of people have been given the shot in the past three days after India started inoculating its health care workers last weekend in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

The company Tuesday said those receiving jabs should disclose their medical conditions, medicines they are taking and any history of allergies.

India on Jan. 4 approved the emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another by Bharat Biotech. But the regulator took the step without publishing information about the Indian vaccine’s efficacy.

Most hospitals in India are inoculating health care workers with the AstraZeneca vaccine. But hospitals in New Delhi that have been administering the Bharat Biotech vaccine have seen many doctors hesitate to take the shot.

India is second only to the U.S. with more than 10.5 million confirmed cases. It has seen over 152,000 confirmed virus deaths.

6:25 a.m.: Chancellor Angela Merkel is holding a virtual meeting Tuesday with the governors of Germany’s 16 states to discuss the country’s pandemic measures amid concerns that new mutations of the coronavirus could trigger a fresh surge in cases.

The country’s infection rate has stabilized in recent days, indicating that existing restrictions may have been effective in bringing down the numbers. On Tuesday, the country’s disease control centre reported 11,369 new virus infections and 891 new deaths, for an overall death toll of 47,622.

The government tightened the country’s lockdown in early January until the end of this month. However, surging infections in Britain and Ireland, said to be caused by a more contagious virus variant, have experts worried that the mutation could also spread quickly in Germany if measures are not extended or even toughened. .

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While restaurants, most stores and schools have already been closed and those shutdowns are likely to be extended, there’s also talk about possible nightly curfews, an obligation to wear the more effective FFP2 or KN95 masks on public transportation, and a push to get more people to work at home.

6:21 a.m.: A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization has criticized China and other countries for not moving to stem the initial outbreak of the coronavirus earlier and questioned whether the U.N. health agency should have labeled it a pandemic sooner.

In a report issued Monday, the panel led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said there were “lost opportunities to apply basic public health measures at the earliest opportunity” and that Chinese authorities could have applied their efforts “more forcefully” in January shortly after the coronavirus began sickening clusters of people.

“The reality is that only a minority of countries took full advantage of the information available to them to respond to the evidence of an emerging pandemic,” the panel said.

The experts also wondered why WHO did not declare a global public health emergency sooner. The U.N. health agency convened its emergency committee on Jan. 22, but did not characterize the emerging pandemic as an international emergency until a week later. At the time, WHO said its expert committee was divided on whether a global emergency should be declared.

“One more question is whether it would have helped if WHO used the word pandemic earlier than it did,” the panel said.

WHO did not describe the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic until March 11, weeks after the virus had begun causing explosive outbreaks in numerous continents.

6:15 a.m.: A new poll suggests almost two-thirds of Canadians would support imposition of a nightly curfew if necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19 — even though they re not convinced it would be effective.

Sixty-five per cent of respondents said they would support a temporary curfew in their province if recommended by public health officials.

In Quebec, where the government imposed a month-long curfew 10 days ago, 74 per cent said they support the move.

Nevertheless, only 57 per cent of Quebecers and just 39 per cent of respondents in the rest of the country said they think curfews are an effective way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The poll, conducted Jan. 15 to 18 by Léger and the Association for Canadian Studies, also suggests that Canadians mental health has suffered as the pandemic drags on; it registered an eight-point rise since last April in the number of respondents who rate their mental health as bad or very bad.

The online poll of 1,516 Canadians cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.

There are 715,072 confirmed cases in Canada (73,919 active, 623,033 resolved, 18,120 deaths).The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers.

There were 5,225 new cases Monday from 55,172 completed tests, for a positivity rate of 9.5 per cent. The rate of active cases is 196.65 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 46,889 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 6,698.

There were 80 new reported deaths Monday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 990 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 141. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.38 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 48.21 per 100,000 people.

4 a.m.: The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.

In Canada, the provinces are reporting 42,543 new vaccinations administered for a total of 613,285 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,618.197 per 100,000.

There were 31,065 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 848,565 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 72.27 per cent of their available vaccine supply.
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