Coronavirus: What's happening around the world on Friday
Widespread COVID-19 vaccinations not expected until mid-2021, WHO says
- WHO does not expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 until middle of next year.
- Members named to panel probing WHO's pandemic response.
- Canada added 246,000 jobs in August, but employment still 1 million short of pre-pandemic level.
- Around 4.4 million Canadians and foreigners have entered by land or air since March.
- Australian PM pitches travel bubble with New Zealand to help revive economy.
- Former Cook Islands prime minister dies of COVID-19 in New Zealand.
- South Korean doctors split over strike deal amid new wave of coronavirus infections.
- Ontario judge rules mother can send son back to school over father's objections about COVID-19.
- Indiana University sees 'alarming' spike in COVID-19 at frat, sorority houses.
- Ex-Italian premier Berlusconi in hospital with early-stage lung infection after positive coronavirus test, doctor says.
The World Health Organization (WHO) does not expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 until the middle of next year, a spokesperson said on Friday, stressing the importance of rigorous checks on their effectiveness and safety.
None of the candidate vaccines in advanced clinical trials so far has demonstrated a "clear signal" of efficacy at the level of at least 50 per cent sought by WHO, spokesperson Margaret Harris said.
Russia granted regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine in August after less than two months of human testing, prompting some Western experts to question its safety and efficacy.
U.S. public health officials and Pfizer Inc. said on Thursday a vaccine could be ready for distribution as soon as late October. That would be just ahead of the U.S. election on Nov. 3 in which the pandemic is likely to be a major factor among voters deciding whether President Donald Trump wins a second term.
"We are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year," Harris told a UN briefing in Geneva.
"This Phase 3 must take longer because we need to see how truly protective the vaccine is, and we also need to see how safe it is." She's referring to the phase in vaccine research where large clinical trials among people are conducted. Harris did not refer to any specific vaccine candidate.
All data from trials must be shared and compared, Harris said.
WATCH | Infectious diseases specialist cautions against rushing vaccine development:
WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance are leading a global vaccine allocation plan known as COVAX, which aims to help buy and distribute shots fairly. The focus is on first vaccinating the most high-risk people in every country such as health-care workers.
COVAX aims to procure and deliver two billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021, but some countries that have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, including the United States, have said they will not join.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that "vaccine nationalism" would only slow the effort to quash the pandemic and called for vaccines to be used fairly and effectively.
A total of 170 countries have now joined COVAX. Ghebreyesus urged others to join by the Sept. 18 deadline for binding commitments.
Meanwhile, an independent panel appointed by WHO to review its co-ordination of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic will have full access to any internal UN agency documents, materials and emails necessary, the panel said Thursday as it began the probe.
The panel's co-chairs are former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.
The 11 others, announced during a media briefing, include Dr. Joanne Liu, who was an outspoken WHO critic during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese doctor who was the first to publicly confirm human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus.
What's happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 6:45 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 131,124 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 115,926 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 9,181.
Canada's economy added 246,000 jobs in August, a figure that pushed the jobless rate down 0.7 percentage points to 10.2 per cent.
Statistics Canada reported Friday that most of the new jobs recorded in the month were full-time work. The figure was in line with what economists had been expecting.
August's number brings the four-month total of new jobs to almost two million since May. But because of the plunge in March and April, Canada still has 1.1 million fewer paid workers than it did in February, before COVID-19 hit.
For the first time, Transport Canada has fined two airline passengers for refusing to wear face masks on board.
The department says the travellers were fined $1,000 each after ignoring repeated directions from cabin crew to put on their face coverings.
The first incident occurred on a WestJet flight from Calgary to Waterloo, Ont., in June and the second, on a WestJet trip from Vancouver to Calgary in July.
Masks or face coverings have been mandatory on flights since April 20.
The announcement comes three days after WestJet announced a strict new policy to ensure passengers wear face coverings, with consequences for non-compliance that include a yearlong travel ban.
WATCH | Dr. Theresa Tam's advice on indoor fall gatherings:
Since COVID-19 travel restrictions were imposed in late March, more than four million people have entered Canada.
According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which tracks numbers on a weekly basis, just over 4.4 million Canadians and foreigners have entered by land or air since March 23.
The agency reports that between March 22 and Sept. 2, it denied entry to more than 18,000 people trying to cross from the U.S. by land or air, because they wanted to visit for non-essential reasons, such as shopping or sightseeing.
Although small number of fines have been doled out to Americans skirting Canada's travel rules, CBSA points out that there are many legitimate reasons why Americans may have entered the country.
"It should be noted that simply seeing a U.S.-plated vehicle or boat is not a reason to suspect someone of suspicious cross-border activity," said CBSA spokesperson Mark Stuart in an email.
The majority of people currently entering by land are truck drivers — who are deemed essential workers.
Canada only allows foreigners to enter for non-discretionary purposes. Those given a pass include qualifying international students and workers in industries deemed essential such as health, food services and transport.
In June, the federal government relaxed its rules to allow foreigners to visit immediate family in Canada.
Meanwhile, Manitoba's education minister is under fire for a Facebook post in which he defended the rights of people to refuse to get a vaccine.
"For those who refuse to get a vaccine, that is absolutely your right! And it should be protected," Kelvin Goertzen, who was previously health minister in Premier Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservative government, said in a post Wednesday.
He continued the post by sharing a CNN story that reported the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told states to prepare to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as early as the end of October.
Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the minister's post on his personal Facebook account is concerning, since Goertzen is the minister in charge of running flu clinics in schools.
Goertzen defended himself in a statement Friday saying he supports vaccination but believes vaccination should be a personal choice.
"There has never been a mandatory vaccine in Canada federally or provincially," he said.
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- For some immigrant and refugee families, back to school in a pandemic comes with additional stressors
- CRA says CERB payments will be deposited by the weekend
Here's what's happening around the world
According to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 26.4 million. More than 872,000 people have died while 17.6 million have recovered.
In the United States, Indiana University at Bloomington on Thursday urged students living in fraternity and sorority houses to move out, citing an "alarming" rate of positive COVID-19 tests that marked the latest outbreak in the U.S. Midwest and at a college campus.
The university said on Twitter that positive tests for coronavirus were exceeding 50 per cent in some Greek houses, higher than in dorms, and it told fraternity and sorority members to "re-evaluate their current living situation."
New coronavirus infections have fallen nationwide for six weeks in a row, while in the Midwest, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota are reporting the highest percentage of positive tests, over 20 per cent in each state.
Later in the day on Friday, a federal judge says she will order the Trump administration to stop detaining unaccompanied immigrant children in hotels before expelling them without the chance to seek refuge in the U.S., a policy the government has enacted during the pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ruled Friday that the use of hotels violates a two-decade-old settlement governing the treatment of immigrant children in custody.
Immigration agencies since March have expelled 148,000 people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border under an emergency declaration citing the pandemic.
The Trump administration says people crossing the border without authorization threaten public health and must quickly be forced out of the country. Advocates for immigrants argue the administration is using the pandemic as a pretext to sidestep federal anti-trafficking laws and asylum protections.
At least 577 unaccompanied children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border since March have been held in hotels, sometimes for weeks, according to government data.
That's instead of sending them to shelters operated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where minors receive legal services, education and the chance to be placed with relatives living in the U.S. More than 13,000 beds in HHS facilities are currently empty.
Gee's order would give lawyers who work with immigrant youths access to the children that the government is trying to expel under the emergency declaration.
Italy's former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who tested positive this week for the coronavirus, is in hospital in Milan with an early-stage lung infection, his personal doctor said.
Alberto Zangrillo, who is also on staff at San Raffaele hospital, said the 83-year-old is breathing on his own.
Zangrillo said test results "makes us optimistic" for his recovery over the next "hours and days." He said that after examining Berlusconi at home a day earlier, he decided on hospitalization after detecting "bland pulmonary involvement."
Berlusconi, who has a pacemaker, is expected to be hospitalized for a "few days," according to Zangrillo.
COVID-19 has forced 12 schools in mainland France to close, but the rest of the almost 60,000 opened as planned at the start of the academic year, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Friday, as coronavirus cases across the country surge.
"It has been a rather good week even though there are always some glitches. Over 12 million pupils returned to school in spite of the difficulties and the worries," he told Europe 1 radio. The French school year began on Tuesday.
WATCH | French parents anxious about work and school amid pandemic:
Blanquer said a further 10 schools were closed for the same reason on La Reunion, an island off Madagascar administered by France.
South Korea's top medical body faced a rift on Friday after trainee doctors rejected a deal by its leader to end a two-week-old strike, although the government backed down from reform plans aimed at averting future epidemics.
Some of the trainees vowed to continue the walkout by about 16,000 interns and resident doctors to oppose the government measures, such as increasing the number of doctors and building public medical schools, among others.
The strike has hindered efforts to dampen a new wave of coronavirus infections, with 198 new cases on Thursday taking the nation's tally to 20,842, with 331 deaths, while a surge in critical cases led to a dearth of hospital beds.
The government says its initiative could help tackle similar crises in future, but the doctors say it would merely swell their numbers in cities, without improving medical services and work conditions in rural provinces.
Also on Friday, South Korea ordered another week of physical distancing curbs for the region around the capital, Seoul, until Sept. 13. Though Thursday's daily caseload fell below 200 for the first time in more than two weeks, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said tougher distancing rules imposed last week needed more time to show results.
Spain is close to reaching half a million coronavirus cases on Friday after authorities registered 4,503 new infections, bringing the total to 498,989.
With schools due to restart next week and many adults returning to work, the latest surge in coronavirus cases has sparked concern and some confusion.
"In Madrid, everybody wears a face mask. We maintain social distance. There are no nightclubs. So I don't know what the problem is," teacher Maribel Cimas told Reuters.
"What are we doing worse than the rest of Europe?"
The Madrid region, which accounts for just below a third of the 101,962 cases diagnosed in the past two weeks, announced it would impose tighter restrictions starting Monday, extending a national 10-person limit on public gatherings to cover private parties as well.
At a national level, Health Minister Salvador Illa urged people to respect rules to curb transmission and announced Spain would launch a nationwide antibody study this fall to determine the prevalence of the virus among the population.
A previous study that concluded in July showed around five per cent of Spaniards had been exposed to the virus, and despite the recent peaks, total confirmed cases are still not far off that mark.
Cuba welcomed on Friday the first planeload of tourists in months, as the island begins to relax restrictions in certain areas.
The arrival was seen as a hopeful sign for tens of thousands of laid-off leisure industry employees, small businesses and hard-pressed residents in general.
An Air Canada plane arrived at midday at the Cayo-Coco airport on the northcentral coast. Air Canada Vacations, the airline's tour business, said it would now fly weekly to Cuba and biweekly beginning next month.
Cuba closed its airports in March due to the pandemic. While some hotels are open under international sanitary regulations at resorts in isolated areas such as Cayo-Coco, there is no indication when Havana and other cities might allow foreign visitors to return.
The country has reported nearly 4,300 COVID-19 cases to date and 100 deaths.
Canada has long been Cuba's most important tourist provider, accounting for 1.1 million of the 4.2 million arrivals in 2019, according to the government.
In India, the number of people infected with the coronavirus rose by another 80,000 and is near Brazil's total, the second-highest in the world.
The 83,341 cases added in the past 24 hours pushed India's total past 3.9 million, according to the Health Ministry. Brazil has confirmed more than four million infections while the U.S. has more 6.1 million people infected, according to Johns Hopkins University. India added nearly two million coronavirus cases in August alone.
India's Health Ministry on Friday also reported 1,096 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 68,472.
Justifying lifting of lockdown restrictions while infections are surging, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the testing capacity has been ramped up and safety procedures put in place.
"While lives are important, livelihoods are equally important," Bhushan said.
Australia's Victoria state reported a record 59 deaths on Friday, the highest ever daily total for the country, including previously unrecorded fatalities in aged care homes over the past several weeks.
An outbreak in the city of Melbourne has raced through dozens of aged-care homes, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Australia's total number of virus deaths now stands at 737.
WATCH | Australia's Morrison seeks travel bubble with New Zealand:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country would look to bring more Australians home, raising the cap from 4,000 a week, and suggested an eventual travel bubble with New Zealand would boost tourism and help revive the economy, which has fallen into recession for the first time since 1991.
The strict lockdown has led to calls for protests this weekend, which police have aggressively tried to shut down. Video footage of police seeking to detain a woman and a man for inciting people to protest have gone viral on social media.
Neighbouring New Zealand reported its first death from the coronavirus in more than three months on Friday. Health authorities said a man in his 50s died at an Auckland hospital where he was being treated for the virus following a small outbreak in the city that began last month.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday current restrictions to beat the spread of the coronavirus would be in place until at least mid-September.
Auckland, the country's largest city, will remain on alert level 2.5 that limits gatherings to no more than 10 people.
Also from New Zealand, a former prime minister of the Cook Islands, Joseph Williams, has died of COVID-19 in Auckland, New Zealand's Health Ministry said, taking the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the country to 24.
Williams, who was in his 80s, was a well-known doctor as well as a politician and author, living in New Zealand. He was briefly prime minister of the Cook Islands in 1999 after having served as the South Pacific nation's minister of health and education.
"Today's sad news again reinforces the importance of our shared vigilance against COVID-19, the very serious consequences the virus can carry with it," New Zealand's director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said in a statement.
With files from The Associated Press and CBC News