• Coronavirus tracker: Follow the pace of COVID-19 cases, vaccinations in Canada.
  • Dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases in the past month, but hospitalizations are falling more slowly.
  • GDP progression from March likely came to a halt in April, but worst could then be over for Canadian economy.
  • Heartening signs for Nova Scotia lobster exporters in 2021 after trying year.
  • Read more:  Erin O’Toole demands more answers from government over ties between Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory and Wuhan Institute of Virology after firing of two scientists; available data suggests cannabis use has gone up during the pandemic.

A person wearing a face mask walks past a Buenos Aires grocery store painted with graffiti depicting Argentine soccer stars on Monday. Argentina has announced that because of the pandemic, it is pulling out of hosting the Copa America, throwing the imminent marquee soccer tournament in doubt. (Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)

Canada recommends mixing and matching AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines

Canada is changing its guidelines on mixing and matching second doses of COVID-19 vaccines and is now advising Canadians to combine the AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shots interchangeably in certain situations.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its guidance to provinces and territories Tuesday and recommended that a first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine can be followed by either Moderna or Pfizer.

For Canadians who have had a first dose of Moderna or Pfizer, NACI recommends they can now take either of the two shots as a second dose — because they both use a similar mRNA technology — if the same first dose is unavailable or unknown.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the decision to combine mRNA vaccines interchangeably was “nothing new” and that the same principle had been applied to different types of vaccines in the past — including shots for influenza and Hepatitis A.

“This is not a new concept, so having a multi-dose series in terms of vaccines given by manufacturers is something that public health have used over time for many other vaccines,” Tam said. “When vaccines programs and supplies change, this is not an unusual thing to do.”

The updated guidelines follow moves by some provinces to combine different shots due to issues with the supply of AstraZeneca and a rare but serious type of blood clot that can result after the shot called vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT).

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) now estimates the rate of VITT in Canadians who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine is between one in 83,000 and one in 55,000, with a fatality rate of between 20 and 50 per cent, but that is subject to change as more data emerges.

PHAC said in a statement to CBC News on May 27 that there have been 27 confirmed cases of VITT to date in Canada out of two million doses administered, with five deaths among those cases.

The updated NACI guidance is based on emerging research from Spain and the United Kingdom that found mixing and matching AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines was both safe and effective at preventing COVID-19. Read more about the research here.

CBC News first reported the details of the recommendation changes Tuesday morning, based on information from sources with direct knowledge of the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity. That was communicated in our CBC Morning Brief, a newsletter you can subscribe to here.

From The National

Saskatchewan has rolled out a COVID-19 vaccination program inside schools provincewide to improve access and uptake of the shots in the younger population before the summer break. 2:01


COVID-19 cases have dropped 70 per cent since peak of the 3rd wave, Theresa Tam says

The number of new COVID-19 cases being reported daily has dropped 70 per cent since the mid-April peak of the third wave, Canada’s chief public health officer said Tuesday.

Speaking at a COVID-19 briefing with reporters, Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada is now reporting an average of 2,700 new cases each day — down from last month’s daily rate of nearly 9,000 new infections.

Tam said the “considerable decline in infection rates” is linked to vaccine uptake rates “increasing in leaps and bounds” in combination with strict public health measures in most provinces. As of May 31, some 58 per cent of all eligible Canadians have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

The progress is slower with respect to the burden on the health-care system in several provinces.

The average number of patients with COVID-19 being treated in hospital each day has dropped by 40 per cent since the April peak, Tam said. An average of 2,600 people are now in hospital with COVID-19, she said.

With respect to intensive care numbers, there are about 1,100 patients currently receiving treatment in ICUs, a 25 per cent decline from the April peak. The average daily number of deaths is also down by about a quarter, with 39 deaths being reported each day countrywide, for a total at the time of this writing of more than 25,560 Canadian deaths over the course of the pandemic.

Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, said hospitalization and death rates are “late indicators” and typically decline at a slower rate when case counts begin to dip. A person may have mild symptoms for a week and then worsen rapidly.

Njoo said the “epidemiology has evolved” and COVID-19 cases driven by variants of concern may also lead to more severe outcomes requiring longer hospital stays.

Read more about the case trends

Canada’s economy expanded again in March, probably shrank in April

For the first quarter as a whole, the Canadian economy grew at an annual pace of 5.6 per cent. That’s worse than the 6.8 per cent that economists were forecasting, and significantly less than the 9.3 per cent pace of growth that GDP was expanding at to finish off 2020.

Statistics Canada reported Tuesday that 18 of the 20 parts of the economy it tracks grew during March, for an overall expansion of 1.1 per cent compared to February. Preliminary data for April suggests the economy then shrank by 0.8 per cent.

Retail trade, accommodation and food services look to have born the brunt of April’s decline, as new lockdowns to counter the third wave of COVID-19 hit those parts of the economy hard. But even sectors like manufacturing and real estate seem to have contracted during the month.

“With many restrictions still in place through May, the economy probably did not do that much better in the second month of the second quarter,” TD Bank economist Sri Thanabalasingam said.

As a result, April will likely see the consecutive streak of 11 months of gross domestic product growth come to an end.

With respect to March, management and the utilities sector were the two outliers that did not grow. The housing market was a source of particular strength, with residential construction spending rising 7.6 per cent to $14 billion, while real estate agents and brokers raked in more than $19 billion, an all-time record.

While April’s report could be sobering, most provinces are now seeing vaccination rates rise and restrictions gradually eased.

“The good news is that the worst appears to be behind us,” Thanabalasingam said. “Vaccinations are progressing at an impressive pace, daily caseloads are declining and provinces are beginning to lift restrictions. These conditions will set the stage for a strong rebound in demand.”

Read more about the latest data

Global pandemic took double-digit bite out of Nova Scotia seafood exports in 2020

Nova Scotia is the largest exporter of lobster in the land, representing 48 per cent of all Canadian exports of the delicacy.

The value of Nova Scotia seafood exports fell by $300 million, or 13 per cent, in 2020 as the pandemic collapsed worldwide demand for lobster and snow crab in restaurants and other food-service businesses like cruise ships and casinos. In 2020, Nova Scotia live lobster exports were $822 million, compared to $947 million the year before, according to trade data released to CBC News by Nova Scotia’s Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

A double-digit drop in revenues is nothing to cheer about, but one Nova Scotia lobster exporter says the industry proved its resilience in 2020.

“It could have been so much worse,” said Stewart Lamont of Tangier Lobster, a company that ships lobster all over the world. “We have shown a resilience in the seafood sector in Atlantic Canada generally — and in Nova Scotia, in particular — that’s phenomenal.”

Breaking down the data, live lobster exports from Nova Scotia — the most valuable seafood sector — fell by 13 per cent, or $125 million, in 2020 compared to the year before.

While the U.S. is the larger market for live lobster, in the aggregate, China represents the largest market when factoring in all lobster products.

As a result, “things looked desperate,” in Lamont’s words, when COVID-19 cases exploded in Wuhan in the first quarter of 2020.

“We had minimal, minimal sales in the Pacific Rim, mainland China in particular,” said Lamont, noting there was recovery in that market later in the year.

In the first three months in 2021, according to data from the fisheries department, the value of live lobster exports from Nova Scotia jumped by 28 per cent compared to 2020.

Read more about the situation

Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.


Toronto’s 1st stage show since start of pandemic is announced

The Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto is shown in pre-pandemic times. Each performance of the first production in 2021 will be limited to 50 people, all to be masked and distanced from each other. (Aaron Harris/The Canadian Press)

Mirvish Productions said Tuesday the “socially distanced sound installation” Blindness is scheduled to premiere at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Aug. 4.

That would make it Toronto’s first indoor stage show since the pandemic shut down theatres in May 2020. Tickets go on sale for the show, which was originally scheduled to open late last year, on June 23.

“Finally, it’s Canada’s turn,” Mirvish Productions founder David Mirvish said in a news release. “We are thrilled to be able to take this first step to re-energize the theatre community here, offering much-needed hope to arts workers and audiences alike.”

Mirvish was referring to recent developments in the theatre world in other countries.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last month that public health restrictions in New York that affect Broadway shows would be lifted on Sept. 14. Wicked, The Lion King and the Canadian musical Come From Away are among the shows scheduled to return to the Great White Way this fall.

London’s West End allowed audiences to return for select shows beginning May 20, with many more productions planned over the summer.

The Toronto reopening won’t mark an immediate return to normal, though. Each performance will be limited to 50 people, all audience members will be in distanced “pods” — sitting either alone or in pairs — and everyone, including staff, will be required to wear a mask.

In its recent three-step reopening plan, the government of Ontario said 70 per cent of the province’s adult population must have had their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine before indoor shows will be allowed. The province hit 50 per cent in mid-May.

Adapted by Simon Stephens from the José Saramago’s novel, Blindness is described as “the rise and, ultimately, profoundly hopeful end of an unimaginable global pandemic.”

Read more about theatre reopening plans

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