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In today's Morning Brief, we look at the push to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. We also look at how the world's major economies are on track for the worst quarterly decline in history.

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'We have a whole globe to protect': Pandemic vaccine research speeds up

At least 70 research teams, including some in Canada, are racing to develop potential pandemic vaccines within a year — an accelerated pace in an unprecedented search for an end to the current worldwide lockdowns.

So far, the number of vaccine developers that have shifted from lab studies in animals to early stage clinical trials in human volunteers can be counted on one hand. But scientists are hopeful they can speed up the research and bypass some of the usual red tape that slows down the vaccine approval process. 

In this pandemic, no one has immunity to the virus because it is new. The goal of a vaccine is to expose our immune system to part of the virus so our bodies can produce antibodies to attack it.

Normally, it takes from seven to 10 years to go from the lab to the arms of patients, according to Halifax-based physician and researcher Dr. Scott Halperin of the Canadian Immunization Research Network. "What's mainly being accelerated are the various administrative steps, not the safety steps," he said.

"Hopefully there'll be five, six, seven, eight successful vaccines, because we have a whole globe that we need to protect." 

The first phase of clinical trials focuses on safety, with about 30 to 50 volunteers testing out different doses of shots. A critical next step is Phase 2 trials in a larger number of people to look for signs that the jabs meet the goal of protecting against infection.

A company in China is beginning Phase 2 trials, while a potential vaccine from researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. is also listed as Phase 2, although doses for the trial are still being made. Halperin said Canadian researchers hope to have some potential vaccines in clinical trials within the next four to six weeks. Read more on this story here.

Hold still

(Hector Retamal/AFP/Reuters)

A man being tested for the novel coronavirus reacts as a medical worker takes a swab sample today in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province. China has largely brought the coronavirus under control within its borders since the outbreak first emerged in Wuhan late last year.

In brief

Canada has not seen the predicted surge of COVID-19 cases in hospitals that many feared would overwhelm the health-care system and lead to a spike in deaths. However, experts say relaxing physical distancing measures anytime soon could put that in jeopardy. There are almost 30,000 presumptive and confirmed cases in Canada, but chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam acknowledged "cautious optimism" yesterday as the rate of new cases went from roughly doubling every three days to every 10 days. Read why one expert says it's "too soon to let our guard down."

The flood of negative economic indicators caused by COVID-19 is set to reach epic proportions in the second quarter, with the world's major economies poised to see an unprecedented decline. Morgan Stanley is predicting a 30.1 per cent drop in U.S. GDP for April through June when compared to last year. The Bank of Canada says there could be a similar decline in GDP in this country, with economic activity 15 to 30 per cent lower in the second quarter of the year compared to the end of 2019. Brett House of Scotiabank Economics said recessions normally play out over multiple quarters. "In this case, we are compressing the downturn into one [quarter]." Read more about the economic outlook here.

WestJet has sent layoff notices to 1,700 of its pilots amid an unprecedented reduction in air travel due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Calgary-based airline said the layoffs affect pilots with WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop, and will take effect either May 1 or June 1. In an email, a spokesperson said the move was a last resort, but noted the pandemic has had a "colossal" impact on the airline industry. Read more about the cuts in the airline industry.

Construction work is still continuing on several projects on Parliament Hill even as most MPs and senators have been told to stay away because of the risks involved in having a large number of people congregating in one place during a pandemic. The work includes renovations to the original House of Commons and Senate chambers, the Library of Parliament, offices for MPs and party leaders and the Peace Tower. Ontario has curtailed construction work in the province to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but because this federal project is beyond the jurisdiction of the provincial stop-work order, construction is going ahead. Read more on why construction is continuing on Parliament Hill

The United States and China, the world's two biggest powers, are growing increasingly hostile, and their relations have worsened with COVID-19. The rivalry could intensify this year, with the U.S. public angry and President Donald Trump bashing China as an election strategy. As CBC's Alexander Panetta writes, the idea that Canada is immune to any fallout from their clashing is repudiated by recent history. Read more about the state of relations between China and the U.S.

CBC is answering your questions about the pandemic. Send your questions to and we'll answer as many as we can. Many Canadians, including Jeff T.,  wonder if we are able to test for the novel coronavirus antibodies, and how long this will take. Rapid antibody blood tests are being made in Canada, but Health Canada has yet to approve them for use during this pandemic. Some experts warn that antibody tests aren't perfect and just because someone tests positive for the antibodies doesn't necessarily mean they have immunity. Learn more about that here.

Now for some good news to start your Thursday: Three Airdrie, Alta., young people are the talk of the town after putting on dinosaur costumes to make folks smile during COVID-19 isolation. Mia McConnell, 10, her brother Kale, 9, and sister Grace, 12, roam around their community for a couple of hours each day as a way to distract people from being stuck in their homes. It started with a Halloween costume Mia had from a couple of years ago. Then Kale got one. Then their mom's friend donated a third. Now the trio is well known in the community, thanks to social media. They even take requests to make a safe-from-a-distance appearance at a child's birthday party. Read more about the roaming dinosaur trio. If you want some more good news, check out CBC News' daily good news video compilation here.

Front Burner: Flight 752 investigation paralyzed by COVID-19

For months, the families of those who died on Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 have been searching for more answers about what led to the downing of the plane. It's been an uphill battle, made even more so by the spread of COVID-19 in Iran and around the world. Today, CBC senior reporter Ashley Burke joins host Jayme Poisson to talk about the human impact of the delays.

Today in history: April 16

1825: Thomas Cochrane is appointed the first resident governor of Newfoundland. He served until 1827.

1874: Provencher MP Louis Riel is expelled from the Commons as a fugitive. The Metis leader was wanted in Ontario for the 1870 execution of Orangeman Thomas Scott during the Red River Uprising.

1907: Joseph-Armand Bombardier is born in Valcourt, Que. He invented the snowmobile in 1937, launching the Canadian manufacturing giant that bears his name.

1949: Hall of Fame thoroughbred jockey Sandy Hawley is born in Oshawa, Ont. He rode in 31,456 races, winning 6,450 of them and more than $88 million in purse earnings.

1995: A deal is reached to end a turbot fishing dispute between Canada and the European Union. The agreement gave Spain a higher turbot quota in the North Atlantic in return for tougher quota enforcement measures.

2019: Premier Rachel Notley and her NDP government are knocked from the saddle by Jason Kenney, whose United Conservatives win a majority in the Alberta election. 

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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