Canada·Coronavirus Brief

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for May 7

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for May 7.
Workers in Ghana carry boxes of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, redeployed from the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra on Friday. Ghana has said it will begin giving citizens a second dose with the allotment. The DRC is redeploying hundreds of thousands of vaccines to other African countries after it said it wouldn't be able to administer the shots before their late June expiration. (Francis Kokoroko/Reuters)

Impact of recent lockdowns felt in latest Canadian jobs report

Canada's economy lost 207,000 jobs in April, as a new round of government-ordered lockdowns forced businesses to lay off workers.

The jobless rate ticked up to 8.1 per cent from 7.5 per cent a month earlier, as a result.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that 129,000 full-time jobs were lost, along with an additional 78,000 part-time positions.

Sri Thanabalasingam, an economist with TD Bank, says the next report might not be rosy either.

"With restrictions remaining in place across the country, Canada's labour market recovery will probably not fully course correct in May."

Thanabalasingam said there is potential overall for a "snapback" for June as coronavirus vaccination rates steadily increase.

Almost half of the job losses were young workers, those between 15 and 24 years old. From a regional perspective, the job losses were concentrated in Ontario and British Columbia, two provinces that implemented strict coronavirus control measures to try to keep a lid on rising COVID-19 numbers.

Saskatchewan and New Brunswick were two provinces that actually added jobs since the last report.

In the U.S., while the American economy gained over 200,000 jobs in Friday's report, the number was less than anticipated by most analysts.

One U.S. government report last week showed that wages and benefits rose at a solid pace in the first quarter, suggesting that some companies are having to pay more to attract and keep employees.

The number of open jobs is now significantly above pre-pandemic levels, and Friday's report signalled that the participation rate rose slightly, with more people in U.S. labour pool that at any point since late last summer.

From The National

Distributing aid another hurdle in India’s COVID-19 crisis

The National

2 months ago
1:59
Canada is among the countries sending medical supplies to India as it grapples with a devastating second wave of COVID-19, but getting enough supplies and distributing them are big hurdles. 1:59

IN BRIEF

Manitobans to face more COVID-19 restrictions as province's ICU capacity is increased 

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin was expected to detail more coronavirus measures at a late afternoon news conference today to help Manitoba address rising COVID-19 case numbers.

Premier Brian Pallister confirmed that there would be new measures, which would represent the second such announcement in as many weeks.

The new measures, which Pallister said are being introduced out of "an abundance of caution," will come into effect immediately after that. The province on Thursday reported 363 new cases, the highest daily total so far in 2021.

The province is currently staffing 115 intensive care beds for COVID-19 at four hospitals — a total that includes spaces that in normal times are not used — with 19 more planned to be ready in the coming days, health officials said.

"The situation is changing rapidly," Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, said during a Friday morning technical briefing. "We are getting fairly close to our peak in wave two."

During the peak of the second wave in the province, 129 ICU beds were being utilized.

Pandemic modelling data obtained by CBC News suggests the province expects the number of COVID-19 patients in its intensive care units to exceed the peak of the pandemic's second wave by the end of the May long weekend.

Pallister also announced a new pandemic sick leave benefit to fill the gaps between federal help and the province's current programs.

Employers will get $600 per employee to cover up to five full days of COVID-19-related sick leave, he said at Friday morning's news conference. The sick days do not have to be taken consecutively.

Read more about the pandemic in Manitoba

Trudeau non-committal on waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines

While he acknowledged poorer countries need more doses quickly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped short Friday of endorsing a plan to dismantle intellectual property (IP) protections for vaccines, which could boost production in developing countries by local manufacturers.

The prime minister announced $375 million in new funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to help develop, produce and distribute diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. That commitment is on top of the $940 million Canada has promised already to ACT and the COVAX Facility, the global vaccine-sharing initiative.

U.S. President Joe Biden said this week his administration would not block efforts to loosen IP protections, but there is not a consensus among world leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposes the move, with French President Emmanuel Macron somewhere in between, saying on Friday that waiving the protections is of less concern in the short run than the sharing of existing doses of vaccines.

Asked to comment on the differing views, Trudeau said: "We know we have to work together as a world to get to the right place. I can assure you Canada is not interfering or blocking anything and is very much working for a solution that benefits everyone."

While open to a discussion about loosening protections, International Trade Minister Mary Ng said Friday that Canada "firmly believes in the importance of protecting IP, and recognizes the integral role that industry has played in innovating to develop and deliver life-saving COVID-19 vaccines."

While some companies, such as AstraZeneca, have agreed to sell their vaccines on a not-for-profit basis, others — like Pfizer — did not receive government funds to research and develop a shot and expect to make a profit by selling their creations.

Innovative Medicines Canada, an industry group that represents some pharmaceutical companies, said it is opposed to any waiver.

It "will not address the real issues of trade barriers, global supply chain bottlenecks and scarcity of raw materials that are impacting the supply of COVID-19 vaccines," the group has said in a statement.

Read more about the situation

Few signs Ontario is probing long-term deaths as government promised in 2020

Nearly one year ago, as that first detailed picture emerged of the true scale of the horror faced by residents of Ontario's long-term care system during the pandemic, a visibly emotional Premier Doug Ford vowed there would be justice.

Ford vowed a full investigation, with the details to be turned over to police who could lay criminal charges if warranted.

"The government has already begun an active investigation," the province said in a news release last May.

It appears there's been little to back up that claim.

Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, answering questions in the wake of a pair of damaging reports on the long-term care sector in the province, said any investigations "would not happen at a provincial level or a ministry level" but would generally be the responsibility of local police departments.

Citing documented cases of some two-dozen long-term residents dying of dehydration and malnutrition in the province, Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath has asked the Ontario Provincial Police to " evaluate whether a criminal investigation is warranted into these deaths."

As of Thursday, OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson told CBC News he wasn't aware of any ongoing investigations into deaths at nursing homes in the province related to COVID-19. Durham Regional Police Services spokesperson George Tudos confirmed an investigation is happening in that region east of Toronto but declined a request for an interview.

Read more about the situation

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.

AND FINALLY...

Ontario woman put 'in a really difficult spot' while timing medication, vaccination doses

Lindsey Martchenko with her four-year-old daughter Izzy. The 32-year-old was diagnosed with MS in 2018 and is on an immunosupressant that helps control her symptoms. Now she's in a dilemma over whether to get her second shot against COVID-19. (Submitted by Lindsey Martchenko )

Millions of Canadians are eagerly taking or awaiting their COVID-19 vaccines, while some others are not interested in getting jabbed at all for religious or philosophical reasons.

But there's another group, which includes a Stratford, Ont., woman, where very real personal health implications need to be weighed.

Lindsey Martchenko, 32, was diagnosed in 2018 with multiple sclerosis, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, and which can cause symptoms including extreme fatigue, weakness and loss of muscle co-ordination.

Ocrevus, an immunosuppressive drug, workers wonders in Martchenko's case but can make MS patients more vulnerable to complications if they contract COVID-19.

"As a person on Ocrevus, I am more prone to upper respiratory infections and have been told by a medical professional that if I were to get COVID, I would likely end up in the hospital because of that," she said.

But on the other hand, there is also evidence Ocrevus can make a COVID-19 vaccine less effective if given too soon after the last infusion of the MS drug.

Martchenko, who received her first vaccination at the end of March, was scheduled for an Ocrevus infusion the week of May 10, but has decided to postpone it so she can stay on track with her COVID-19 vaccinations.

Martchenko's local health until told CBC News that exceptions to Ontario's current schedule of a four-month interval between shots include transplant patients and people receiving chemotherapy. MS patients taking Ocrevus are not among those eligible for such a four-week schedule between shots.

Dr. Courtney Casserly, a neurologist with the London Health Sciences Centre, hopes that more Ontarians with health challenges can be vaccinated on a shorter interval. The province has hinted that such a move could be possible with recent indications the province's vaccine supply will be bolstered in the coming weeks.

"This particular patient population ... they're making this difficult decision of whether or not they want to be protected against COVID or whether or not they want to go forward with a treatment that could be preventing worsening of their MS," said Casserly. "It puts them in a really difficult spot."

Read more about the situation

Find out more about COVID-19

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