South Africa fuels Omicron hope as hospitalizations in check, with less oxygen needed.
Updated throughout the day on Monday, Dec. 6. Questions/comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
As of 11 a.m. today, 180,164 Quebec children age five to 11 had received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.
Another 94,543 had appointments to get the shot.
That’s a total of 274,707, meaning about 42 per cent of the 650,000 children in this age group are vaccinated or are about to get vaccinated.
Premier François Legault has said all children five to 11 will be offered the vaccine before Christmas.
He has said that vaccinating kids will be a key step before the province can list most of its remaining pandemic measures.
Just under two weeks ago, Quebec started inoculating young children at mass clinics where parents can accompany them.
Vaccinators are now fanning out across the province to visit elementary schools but in Montreal, some schools will be visited as late as Dec. 21.
Last week, Dr. Mylène Drouin, Montreal’s public health director, urged parents to book their shots at mass clinics if possible.
“If you are able to go to a mass vaccination centre, take an appointment as soon as possible – your child will (gain) immunity (sooner) for the holidays. This is our recommendation.”
In some cases, children are being bussed to other schools to get inoculated.
Only about half the schools in the Montreal region will host vaccination operations, said Sonia Bélanger, head of the Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montreal health authority, said last week.
The choice of schools depends on different factors, including space, availability of nursing staff and parking, she said.
We have put together a guide to getting vaccinated.
Visit Clic Santé to book an appointment.
Vaccination 5-11 ans: à ce jour, 180 164 jeunes de 5 à 11 ans ont reçu une première dose du vaccin contre la COVID-19 et 94 543 attendent leur rendez-vous. 2/2
From The Canadian Press:
Canada could become a global manufacturing hub for a potentially game-changing treatment of COVID-19 with the signing of a new agreement to produce Merck Canada’s antiviral drug in Whitby, Ont.
The company inked a deal with Thermo Fisher Scientific to manufacture the drug, molnupiravir, at its facility in Whitby with a mandate to supply the product domestically, as well as to the United Kingdom, European Union, Asia Pacific and Latin America.
The drug — one of the first treatments for non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients — is currently pending Health Canada approval.
The facility has already churned out 10 million courses of the drug while the company waits for the green light.
Last week Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi announced Canada had signed a deal to purchase 500,000 courses of the oral antiviral drug, with the option to purchase another 500,000 if Health Canada gives the all-clear.
“The inventory is there, it’s ready to be shipped once we have approval, but we will continue to manufacture for future supplies,” said Marwan Akar, president of Merck Canada, at a news conference Monday.
The antiviral works by blocking the enzyme essential for viral replication.
Merck’s clinical trial showed a 50 per cent reduced risk of hospitalization or death compared to placebo patients with mild or moderate COVID-19.
Some experts have heralded the development of the drug as a potential turning point in the pandemic. Currently, antiviral medication must be administered intravenously by a health-care professional in a hospital.
The oral medication could be prescribed and taken at home, allowing patients to be treated before they are so sick they need hospital care and potentially alleviating pressure on hospitals.
The announcement is also a step forward in Canada’s efforts to boost domestic biomanufacturing to respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics.
A cruise ship set to dock in New Orleans with over 3,000 passengers has detected 10 cases of COVID-19 among its crew and guests, the Louisiana Department of Health said late on Saturday.
Read our full story.
Rapid and still-evolving border restrictions in response to the omicron variant have submerged air-travel demand yet again, throwing a long-awaited recovery into uncertainty.
The emerging coronavirus wave has put airlines under even more pressure as they navigate rules that vary by country and are being revised daily as more information about the strain comes to light.
Read our full story.
“What will working from home ultimately beget? Unemployment, reduced salaries, the transfer of jobs abroad and an underclass of employees far removed from decision-making and promotional opportunities.”
Read the latest column by Howard Levitt, an employment lawyer.
REMINDER: All travellers, including those arriving by car, truck or bus at a land port of entry, must submit their mandatory information via #ArriveCAN – free mobile app or website – prior to arriving in Canada, regardless of how long they’ve been away. https://t.co/qztbdPetsO pic.twitter.com/w6wjmRbBlv
Quebec has recorded 1,189 new cases of COVID-19, the provincial government announced this morning.
The seven-day rolling average is now 1,205 – the highest since April 23.
Montreal’s average is also in a range not seen since April.
In addition, two new deaths were reported.
Some other key statistics from Quebec’s latest COVID-19 update:
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Quebec has reported 455,825 cases and 11,589 deaths linked to COVID-19.
Pandemic news is expected on at least two fronts in Quebec this week.
The province is set to announce its timeline for providing third vaccine doses to more Quebecers.
The federal immunization committee last week “strongly recommended” that all Canadians 50 and older be given a booster shot, and said they could be offered to younger adults, as well.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said Quebec is expecting recommendations from its own committee this week after which it will lay out its plan to administer third doses.
Quebec has been slower than other provinces to roll out booster shots, focusing only on people over 70, residents of seniors’ homes, some immunocompromised people, as well as those who have received two shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Quebecers are also expected to learn the guidelines they’ll be asked to follow for holiday gatherings.
At the moment, up to 10 people can gather in private homes.
Premier François Legault has mused about lifting that limit to 20 or 25 , sparking debate over whether he was sowing confusion and irresponsibly raising expectations.
Legault has said he would announce Christmas recommendations from public health this week.
Ontario last week announced indoor holiday gatherings can welcome up to 25 people.
From the Bloomberg news agency:
South Africa’s surge in COVID-19 cases following the emergence of the Omicron variant hasn’t overwhelmed hospitals so far, prompting some cautious optimism that the new strain may cause mostly mild illness.
Initial data from South Africa, the epicentre of the outbreak of the Omicron variant, are “a bit encouraging regarding the severity,” Anthony Fauci, U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on Sunday. At the same time, he cautioned that it’s too early to be definitive.
Scientists and public-health officials are scouring available data to try to predict Omicron’s impact as many questions about the new strain and its multiple mutations remain unanswered. The variant’s discovery was announced on Nov. 25.
The scramble for clarity has led to sometimes conflicting messages about how serious a threat Omicron represents.
Moderna President Stephen Hoge on Sunday said there’s a clear risk that existing vaccines will be less effective against Omicron, though it’s too early to say by how much. Other vaccine developers last week expressed optimism that the shots may retain some efficacy against severe illness.
While the early link between infections and hospitalizations may look encouraging, there also tends to be a time lag between the two occurrences.
Severe symptoms in patients who contracted earlier variants typically developed between one and three weeks after they were diagnosed, according to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases. The seven-day moving average of daily new cases in the country rose to 10,055 last week, from less than 300 three weeks earlier.
Governments around the world, which had hoped for a return to normalcy after two years of pandemic struggles, responded to the new strain by swiftly clamping down on travel.
The U.K. will require all travellers to take a test within 48 hours of their flight, regardless of their vaccination status. France has tightened testing requirements for visitors from outside the European Union. Germany’s Angela Merkel, in her last podcast as chancellor, pleaded with people to take the virus seriously and get vaccinated.
“There was almost a knee-jerk response of countries, including the U.S., to block travel from countries in which there were recognizable cases of Omicron,” Fauci said Monday at a separate event. “That knee-jerk reaction was understandable, it had political and nationalistic aspects to it to protect your country, but you also have to take into consideration your responsibility not only to your country but to the rest of the world.”
Omicron has sparked concern that it could evade vaccine-induced protection and frustrate efforts to reopen economies because it shows some 30 or more changes in the spike protein, which the virus uses to lever its way into cells. But several more weeks may elapse before laboratory testing and real-life studies begin to untangle exactly what the mutations mean.
In another encouraging sign, the Steve Biko and Tshwane District Hospital Complex in Pretoria, South Africa, said that most patients in the COVID wards didn’t require oxygen. That marks a departure from previous waves.
Fauci said the Biden administration is reevaluating the travel ban on eight southern African countries as more information becomes available.
Omicron cases linked to a corporate Christmas party in Oslo may rise to as many as 100, a Norwegian broadcaster reported over the weekend.
From The Canadian Press:
Opposition MPs are getting ready to review the Liberals’ latest package of pandemic aid and grill Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland about myriad economic issues.
The 12-member House of Commons finance committee is scheduled to meet Monday to move the aid bill closer to a final vote before MPs leave on their holiday break in two weeks.
As part of a compromise to fast-track the legislation, the Liberals agreed to have Freeland sit for at least two hours of questioning before the committee.
That gives opposition members a chance to grill Freeland about issues facing the domestic economy and the government’s pandemic response overall.
NDP finance critic Daniel Blaikie, who is on the committee, says he plans to press Freeland on ways to reverse clawbacks for income-tested benefits to low-income seniors and families whose earnings were buoyed by emergency aid.
The New Democrat adds that his party has concerns about how only workers subject to lockdowns would receive income support, leaving out thousands still struggling.
“The Liberals talk about a recovery that leaves no one behind, but that’s not what their bill does,” Blaikie said.
“While inflation rates rise higher and Canadians struggle to afford housing and necessities like groceries or medication, the bill proposed by the government shows that the Liberals are choosing to let vulnerable Canadians fall through the cracks.”
Inflation is also likely to be on the minds of Conservative MPs on the committee as the party tries to pin the problem on the government, despite pressures coming from a variety of global factors, including supply-chain issues.
MPs on the committee will have to decide when Freeland testifies as part of the review of the bill, but her office said Sunday the government is looking for swift action from the committee.
“We urge all parties and all parliamentarians to work with us to quickly pass this legislation and get this support to Canadians without delay,” said Freeland spokeswoman Adrienne Vaupshas.
The bill before the committee proposes a $7.4-billion revamp of benefits to send them only to workers subject to lockdowns, and rent and wage subsidies for only the most hard-hit businesses through to May 7.
Benefits for parents who must stay home with sick children, and another for workers who need sick days from work, would also be extended to the spring.
The Liberals argue broad income-support measures and business aid are no longer required given the strength of the economic recovery to date.
The latest figures from Statistics Canada showed the economy grew at an annual rate of 5.4 per cent in the third quarter of the year, just a hair below what the Bank of Canada expected.
Friday’s jobs report also showed gangbuster growth in November, as the addition of 154,000 jobs in the month dropped the unemployment rate to its lowest level since COVID-19 first struck the country, and within 0.3 percentage points of the levels recorded pre-pandemic in February 2020.
But underneath those numbers are pockets of weakness in sectors like hospitality and tourism, as well as an undercurrent of uncertainty from COVID-19 itself, including new variants.
“People need to know that if another lockdown is imminent, or if they need to stay home because they’re sick … that there is stability there from income support,” Unifor economist Kaylie Tiessen said Friday.
“That has been a really important piece of getting us through this crisis less battered than we otherwise would have been.”
Future pandemics could be even more lethal than COVID-19 so the lessons learned from the pandemic must not be squandered, one of the creators of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine said.
“This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods,” Sarah Gilbert said in the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, the BBC reported. “The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both.”
Read our full story.
The Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 likely acquired at least one of its mutations by picking up a snippet of genetic material from another virus – possibly one that causes the common cold – present in the same infected cells, according to researchers.
Read our full story.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a private sector vaccine mandate on Monday without elaborating how the city would enforce the requirement, the Bloomberg news agency reports.
He also strengthened the vaccine rules for access to indoor dining, entertainment and fitness, which currently requires people to have received at least one dose. Starting Dec. 27, people will have to be fully vaccinated to enter establishments. Kids age 5-11 will also be required to have at least one shot to enter restaurants, de Blasio said.
“All private sector employers in New York City will be covered by this vaccine mandate as of Dec. 27,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview on MSNBC Monday. He said he wants to focus on “maximizing vaccination quickly so we can get ahead of Omicron and all the other challenges we’re facing.”
The city has seen a post-Thanksgiving rise in COVID-19 infections in addition to its first few cases of the Omicron variant. The cases so far appear to be unrelated, according to governor Kathy Hochul, but officials have warned people to assume there is already community spread.
“We have to assume community spread at this point,” de Blasio said. “Omicron is here.”
New York City last week strengthened its recommendation for residents to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status and announced additional vaccine mandates on childcare workers and private school employees.
“Vaccine mandates are the one thing that really breaks through,” de Blasio said. “Let’s lean into it even more.”
Police fired teargas and used water cannons on Sunday to disperse protesters pelting officers with cobblestones and fireworks as a demonstration in Brussels over government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions turned violent.
Read our full story.
More than 40,000 people marched through Vienna on Saturday to protest against a lockdown and plans to make vaccinations compulsory to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Read our full story.
Here’s the rate of case growth per 100,000 people over the past seven days, via the federal government’s latest epidemiological update .
Quebec’s vaccine passport is mandatory for people 13 and older who want to access services and activities deemed non-essential by the provincial government, including bars, restaurants, gyms, festivals and sporting events.
Quebecers can use a smartphone app to prove their vaccination status or simply carry their QR code on paper.
The app is available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play .
We have published two guides to the passports – one looks at how to download and set up the app , and another answers key questions about the system, including how, when and why.
You can find more information on the Quebec government’s website – one page has details on how the system works, and another has a list of the places where a vaccine passport will be required .
Local health authorities have set up mass vaccination sites across Montreal.
You can book appointments via the Clic Santé website or by phone at 1-877-644-4545.
Quebecers can also visit walk-in AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccine clinics .
Here are the nuts and bolts of getting vaccinated , by Katherine Wilton. Her guide includes the age groups targeted, how to book appointments, and addresses of vaccination centres.
We are regularly updating our list of what services are open, closed or modified in Montreal and Quebec, including information on the curfew and other lockdown measures.
You can read it here.
Montrealers can be screened at test centres across the island.
For other parts of Quebec, check out this page on the Quebec government’s site .
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