- UN calls for $35 billion US in funding to support vaccine acceleration program.
- Top Mexican tourist attraction Teotihuacan pyramids reopen to public, with restrictions.
- Ontario premier expresses frustration over ‘broken’ Quarantine Act.
- Quebec will hand out fines to those who refuse to wear masks.
- Major U.S. meatpacker faces fine after outbreaks at slaughterhouses infected thousands of workers.
- India reports another record daily spike of new coronavirus infections.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for $35 billion US ($46 billion Cdn) more — including $15 billion ($19.7 billion Cdn) in the next three months — for the World Health Organization’s program to back vaccines, treatments and diagnostics against COVID-19.
Some $3 billion has been contributed so far, Guterres told an online event on Thursday, calling it “seed funding” that was less than 10 per cent of what the WHO wants for the program, formally called Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
Financial support has, so far, lagged goals, as countries or governments including the European Union, United Kingdom, Japan and the United States reach bilateral deals for vaccines, prompting Guterres and WHO General Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to plead with countries to contribute.
“We now need $35 billion more to go from ‘start up’ to ‘scale up and impact,'” Guterres said at a meeting of a council formed to help the ACT Accelerator gain traction.
“There is real urgency in these numbers. Without an infusion of $15 billion over the next three months, beginning immediately, we will lose the window of opportunity.”
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The total sought, $38 billion ($46 billion Cdn), is more than the previously published $31.3 billion ($41.1 billion Cdn) ACT goal and includes for the first time additional funding for health systems, in addition to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, a WHO spokesperson said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged backing, having in August already promised 400 million euros ($624 million Cdn) to the COVAX vaccine portion of the program.
“It is difficult to find a more compelling investment case. The European Commission will remain deeply and entirely committed to the success of the ACT Accelerator,” von der Leyen said. “The world needs it, we all need it.”
Tedros renewed calls for scaling up COVID-19 clinical trials. AstraZeneca this week suspended late-stage trials on its potential vaccine after an illness in a participant in Britain. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Thursday if safety reviewers allow a restart, the company should still know by year’s end if its vaccine works.
AstraZeneca’s pause is a “wake-up call” but should not discourage researchers, WHO’s chief scientist said Tuesday.
“This is a wake-up call to recognize that there are ups and downs in clinical development and that we have to be prepared,” Soumya Swaminathan told a virtual briefing from Geneva.
“We do not have to be discouraged. These things happen.”
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Governments are desperate for a vaccine to help end the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused more than 900,000 deaths and global economic turmoil, and the WHO had flagged AstraZeneca’s, being developed with Oxford University, as the most promising.
However, the drugmaker suspended late-stage trials on its potential vaccine this week after a participant in Britain was reported to be suffering from symptoms associated with a rare spinal inflammatory disorder.
“It’s a race against this virus, and it’s a race to save lives. It’s not a race between companies, and it’s not a race between countries,” said Mike Ryan, WHO’s head of emergencies.
What is happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 4:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 134,672 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 118,687 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,199.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday the quarantine system is “broken” because federal health officers are not charging people ignoring self-isolation orders for COVID-19.
Since the end of March, an emergency order under the federal Quarantine Act has required most people arriving from outside Canada to isolate themselves for 14 days, even if they don’t have symptoms.
Federal quarantine officers can lay charges with penalties of up to six months in jail and fines of $750,000, while police can issue tickets of up to $1,000.
WATCH | Ontario premier calls Canada’s Quarantine Act ‘broken’:
Federal health officials say nobody has been arrested for ignoring a quarantine order, though one person was issued a summons to appear in court and 42 people have been ticketed by police.
Ford said Ontario police checks have uncovered 622 quarantine order scofflaws, and he is frustrated about the lack of federal charges.
In Quebec, which has seen a recent spike in cases, Premier François Legault said police will begin handing out fines to anyone who isn’t wearing a mask when required according to public health guidelines.
WATCH | Quebecers flouting COVID-19 mask rules will be fined, says Legault:
The fines will apply across the province, but Legault said authorities will target regions classified as “yellow” under the government’s new colour-coded COVID-19 alert system.
“There’s a trend we do not like here,” Legault said on Thursday. “We cannot accept that a few irresponsible individuals put at risk the entire population of Quebec.”
The new enforcement measures go into effect Saturday. People will be fined if they do not wear a mask in indoor public spaces where distancing is not possible.
While business owners already faced fines if they did not properly enforce the government’s mask regulations, individuals faced no consequences if they refused to wear one until now.
Alberta has reported its first COVID-19 outbreaks at two public high schools in Calgary and Lethbridge.
In south Calgary, parents and staff at Henry Wise Wood High School received a letter from Alberta Health Services Wednesday evening confirming that two or more people with COVID-19 had attended the school while infectious.
“Public Health staff are investigating to determine who may have been exposed at your school to cases of COVID-19 during their infectious period,” AHS wrote in the letter.
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In an emailed statement to CBC News, AHS said an outbreak is defined as two or more confirmed cases at the same school within 14 days.
“Any individual considered exposed to this case will be contacted directly by Alberta Health Services, per standard contact tracing procedures,” said AHS. “Infection prevention control measures (physical distancing, masking, hand hygiene, environmental cleaning) have also been reviewed with the school.”
In Lethbridge, parents and staff at Chinook High School received a similar letter on Wednesday, stating an outbreak has been confirmed at the school.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 27.9 million. More than 905,000 people have died, while over 18.8 million have recovered.
The United States Labour Department said on Thursday it cited Smithfield Foods for failing to protect employees from the coronavirus, making it the first major U.S. meatpacker to face a fine after outbreaks at slaughterhouses infected thousands of workers this spring and caused meat shortages.
The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. in Sioux Falls, S.D., for “failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious harm,” according to a statement.
At least 1,294 Smithfield workers contracted coronavirus, and four employees died from the virus this spring, the statement said.
OSHA proposed fining the world’s biggest pork processor $13,494 US, the maximum allowed by law. Smithfield, owned by China’s WH Group Ltd, thinks the citation is without merit and plans to contest it, a spokesperson said.
The massive temples and pyramids of Teotihuacan, one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations, reopened to visitors on Thursday, more than five months after closing in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
A trickle of tourists could be seen Thursday morning along the ancient city’s main thoroughfare, the so-called Avenue of the Dead, though they were not allowed to scale the site’s three tallest pyramids.
The main archeological zone will be limited to 3,000 visitors per day, with both temperature checks and masks required going forward. Two local museums will remain closed.
Mexico has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly 650,000 total infections and almost 70,000 deaths confirmed to date by health authorities.
France is extending temporary virus-related unemployment benefits until next summer, amid prolonged economic fallout from the lockdown.
Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne said Thursday on BFM television that the government will continue paying up to 84 per cent of salaries for workers at struggling companies.
France’s government has already spent tens of billions of euros on this temporary unemployment system since the country’s strict lockdown in spring to try to avoid mass joblessness.
The Czech Republic is returning to mandatory mask wearing in interior spaces amid a steep rise in new coronavirus cases.
Starting Thursday, people across the country need to cover their face in all public places, including stores, shopping malls, post offices and others, but also in private companies where employees cannot keep physical distance from one another.
South Korea‘s new coronavirus cases have stayed below 200 for an eighth straight day, suggesting the recent viral resurgence is slowing amid stringent physical distancing rules.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday it recorded 155 additional cases over the past 24 hours, taking the national tally of recorded cases to 21,743, with 346 deaths since the pandemic began.
South Korea had seen a spike in new infections since early August, mostly in the greater Seoul area. Authorities in the Seoul region have subsequently ordered the shutdown of churches, nightspots and fitness centres, and restricted dining at restaurants.
Myanmar increased lockdown measures in its biggest city on Thursday after reporting another record daily rise in coronavirus cases, with 120 new infections taking its overall cases past the 2,000 mark.
Health authorities expanded a stay-at-home order to nearly half of the townships in greater Yangon, a city of at least five million people, where most of the new infections were found.
The country has now reported a total of 2,009 COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths, with infections quadrupling since a month ago, when the virus resurfaced in the western state of Rakhine after weeks without a domestic case.
India reported another record spike of new coronavirus infections with 95,735 in the past 24 hours as the virus spreads beyond its major cities.
According to the Health Ministry, the number of people known to be infected in India reached 4,465,863 on Thursday. It has the second-highest caseload in the world behind the United States, where more than 6.3 million people are known to be infected.
The Health Ministry also reported 1,172 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 75,062. Its death toll is third-highest in the world behind the U.S. and Brazil.