The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for June 4

Racegoers are shown Friday at the Epsom Derby Festival, arguably the premier event on Britain’s horse racing calendar. (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images/Getty Images)

British virus cases creep up, as its delta variant experience could be a harbinger for Canada

Britain recorded more than 6,000 new COVID-19 infections for the first time since March on Friday, a concerning development as the country is moving through the stages of its reopening plan, spurred by a successful vaccination drive.

It is believed the rapidly spreading coronavirus variant known as the delta variant, or B.1.617.2 is contributing significantly to the increase in cases. The variant was first found in India and believed to have arrived in the U.K. by way of an air traveller.

Biologist Ravi Gupta of Cambridge University, who is part of British government’s vaccine advisory group, believes that the toll from the variant probably won’t be as serious as that of the alpha variant, first detected in the U.K. in November 2020, before vaccination got underway.

“But the problem is, with our health system, there is already low morale,” Gupta told CBC’s London correspondent Renée Filippone. “People are exhausted and even if it was a quarter of what it was before, that would still be too much.”

The development is something for Canada — not yet screening for delta — to be mindful of. Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador and Peel Region in Ontario, for example, have commented on recent cases in those areas attributable to the delta variant.

Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist and senior lecturer in machine learning at Queen Mary University of London, told CBC’s The Dose that given the British experience, it’s critical Canada focuses on “bringing community transmission to zero or near zero and maintaining it at that level for as long as possible until most of the population is protected with vaccines.”

Two doses of the approved COVID-19 vaccines seem to offer strong protection against this variant, according to a preprint study that has not yet been peer-reviewed. But researchers at Public Health England in that study of more than 1,000 people found that both Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines were only about 33 per cent effective against symptomatic disease three weeks after a first dose was received.

Dr. Zain Chagla, associate professor of medicine at McMaster University and an infectious disease specialist for St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton told The Dose that delta could spell trouble for Australia, Taiwan and Singapore and other countries where the national inoculation campaigns are still in the early stages.

“This variant seems to be effective at finding its way to people that have not been vaccinated,” he said.

Canada, Chagla said, is in a better position than those countries, but needs to make “a monumental effort” to roll out second doses as soon as possible.

Federal health officials on Friday said that 65 per cent of all eligible Canadians — people 12 years of age and over — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Just 6.5 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, although it appears most Canadians who’ve received a first shot have a known date booked for the second dose and some provinces, including Quebec, are offering the chance to shorten the interval between first and second doses because of a stable supply of vaccines.

From The National

The long wait for COVID-19 vaccines in many countries is fuelling a trend of travelling somewhere to get inoculated. Some places, including New York City, are encouraging it. 1:55


Economy lost 68,000 jobs in May, unemployment rate rose slightly to 8.2%

Canada’s labour market shed 68,000 jobs last month as tighter public health restrictions continued or were introduced in many regions of the country to slow the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey data released Friday indicated that Ontario and Nova Scotia were the only provinces to register declines in total employment. The report said the extension to Ontario’s stay-at-home order accounted for most of the employment decline. The drop in Nova Scotia was largely due to the province entering lockdown at the end of April.

More than three-quarters of the job losses (54,000) were part-time positions. Manufacturing saw its first monthly decline since April 2020 when the pandemic’s impact first took effect in Canada. Nearly 16,000 lob losses were reported in construction, driven mostly by Ontario’s pandemic-related restrictions implemented April 17, the survey found.

The report said there were 49,700 people who wanted work but didn’t look for jobs in April, “because of business conditions or because they believe no work is available.”

Sri Thanabalasingam, senior economist at TD Economics, said “the drop in this month’s participation rate is concerning,” but that the acceleration of Canada’s vaccine rollout may provide employers with added confidence and boost hiring plans.

“With fewer people engaged in the labour market, Canada could face labour shortages as demand for labour recovers faster than supply. This will be an area to watch closely in the coming months,” he said.

That appears to be happening in the U.S., where a vaccination effort largely avoided significant coronavirus restrictions in May. Employers added a modest 559,000 jobs in May, the U.S. Labour Department reported on Friday. It was above April’s revised total of 278,000, but still well short of employers’ need for labour.

While businesses are rushing to add workers in the U.S., many of the unemployed are seeking better jobs than they had before the pandemic, still lack affordable child care or worry about contracting COVID-19.

“There is a gap between the economy and labor market,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at the payroll processing firm ADP.

Read more about the report

Ottawa secures more Pfizer shots as emphasis turns to getting 2nd shots into arms

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that Canada’s current order of 48 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are expected to be fully delivered by August.

As well, the federal government has put in an order of three million more shots for that product, meaning Canada is on track to receive enough doses from Pfizer alone to vaccinate 25.5. million people.

“We’ll keep getting shipments secured until everyone can get their shots,” Trudeau said. “At the pace we’re going, that target is well within reach.”

Canada has also received 5.7 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine but the U.S. company’s shipments have been spotty or smaller than expected since April 1. Moderna has delivered or scheduled less than half of the 12.3 million doses initially promised for the second quarter.

As mentioned earlier in the newsletter, 65 per cent of all eligible Canadians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but just 6.5 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, also provided an update on COVID-19 case counts on Friday. An average of 2,300 new infections are now being reported each day countrywide, down from 9,000 at the peak, but those hospitalized have faced lengthy stays — the number of intensive care admissions has dropped more slowly than cases from April, a decrease of 31 per cent.

Read more about the national vaccine, caseload outlook

Canada should give surplus doses to poorer countries, GAVI and WHO leaders say

Two prominent officials at the centre of the global coronavirus response — in interviews conducted before the aforementioned Pfizer announcement from Trudeau — have called on Canada and other developed countries to share vaccine doses to help combat the spread of variants and the inequities of the inoculation effort worldwide.

Former Portuguese prime minister José Manuel Barroso told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics on Thursday that while he understands governments were focused on protecting their own citizens when the pandemic began, they have a larger responsibility to the world now.

Barroso said he believes COVAX, the vaccine sharing program that has fallen behind some of its desired timelines, can catch up if wealthy countries donate their surplus doses.

“People say no one is safe until everyone is safe. This is not a slogan, because the more time the virus will be circulating, the more probable there will be mutations and also possible new variants that are more transmissible and more dangerous,” said Barros, who is the chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which co-leads the COVAX.

The World Health Organization’s technical lead, American Maria Van Kerkhove, also urged Canada to donate doses to the COVAX scheme.

“We really need doses to be shared through the COVAX mechanism,” she told host David Common. “It is time for countries to donate the available doses that they can.”

Developed countries stepped up earlier this week with an additional $2.4 billion, but only after entreaties from WHO and others. Most, including Canada, opted to give cash contributions to help countries procure more vaccines as opposed to providing doses.

Barroso did express gratitude for Canada’s support for COVAX to date. He said “each government, of course, has the right to define” when they believe they have a surplus — “but we believe the sooner the better.”

The United States has promised to share 80 million vaccine doses around the world, most through COVAX. On Thursday, it provided more details on the first 19 million to be funnelled through COVAX, with an emphasis on Asian, African and Latin American countries.

Watch the full Power & Politics interviews

Just the prospect of returning to St. John’s for the first time since the pandemic began made Jillian Stoyles emotional when speaking with CBC News. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.


Waiting for that ‘warm blanket’: Those with Newfoundland ties eye the calendar for anticipated trips home

Jillian Stoyles has lived in Calgary for the last seven years, but was born and raised in St. John’s where the majority of her family still lives.

Stoyles began to cry when telling CBC News she returns home each Christmas, but with Newfoundland and Labrador’s orders on banning non-essential travel to non-residents, she hasn’t seen her family since the pandemic began in early 2020.

“The province to me just feels like home. It’s like a warm blanket just waiting to hug me and make me feel welcome, and accepted, and loved and embraced,” said Stoyles.

But Stoyles has already made plans to return to St. John’s in August after the province outlined a plan earlier this week to open its borders to non-essential travel. There will be a lot of news to catch up on, including her own engagement to be wed.

Barbara Hutton, owner of Executive Travel in St. John’s, told CBC News that since the province’s announcement on reopening, her phone keeps ringing with the majority of callers planning trips to return to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Lisa Bragg, director of business development and marketing with the St. John’s International Airport Authority, said there’s still work to be done with the airlines and is waiting to again secure a direct route between St. John’s and Toronto.

But, Bragg said, “there’s stories all over the place of people being so excited to come home.”

Sarah Williams lives in Halifax with her husband and two daughters, but hasn’t been home to Corner Brook in two years.

“Everybody is feeling it. My parents aren’t getting any younger, so any time with them is amazing,” Williams said.

Read more about the anticipation

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