Tag Archives: officials

Serious COVID-19 cases on the rise among younger people in B.C., health officials say

An increasing number of younger people in British Columbia are becoming infected with COVID-19 and some are dying, just as vaccines are protecting older populations, the provincial health officer said Monday.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said younger patients who are ending up in intensive care units need more time there, in part because of clusters of cases in some communities.

“We saw that with some of the outbreaks that were happening in First Nations communities where people at a younger age were much more likely to need hospitalization or critical care. And sadly, where we’ve seen younger people die from the virus,” Henry said. 

COVID-19 is spreading through crowded households and workplaces as cases rise among people between the ages of 20 and 39, and up to age 59, she said.

“With a higher number of people in that age group being affected, the probability that somebody is going to end up in hospital at a younger age goes up,” Henry said, adding some people who have been hospitalized have underlying health conditions.

Indoor gatherings, even with people having minimal contact, should be avoided as the variant first identified in the United Kingdom becomes more prevalent, transmitting COVID-19 easily as it spreads, Henry said.

“The only safe place for us to gather now in our small groups, with our friends and families, is outside,” she said of her public health order limiting gathering numbers to 10 and among people who must stick to the same group.

“I’m calling on all of us again to go back to our basics. This is not the time to be getting together even with a small group of friends. This is not the time to have that wedding. Put it off. Put it off to the summer and we will be a different place, a post-pandemic place.

“We are seeing things increasing, whether it’s the end of our second wave or the beginning of the third, it is worrisome.”

Henry said establishments hosting weddings and similar events will be held accountable for putting their employees and others at risk.

She also called on businesses to continue having safety plans in place regardless of whether owners or employees have been vaccinated.

“It takes time for that to come into effect. And it takes time when we have this much transmission in our community,” she said, adding businesses with ongoing transmission could be closed for at least 10 days.

“For all of us, don’t let up now. And if you are blatantly disregarding those public health orders, there are ramifications for that.”

Health officials have been meeting with religious leaders to finalize plans for the resumption of outdoor services with an announcement expected in the coming days, Henry said.

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CBC | Health News

Officials across Canada urge new vigilance as COVID variants spread

The latest:

Alberta’s top doctor is urging people to follow both the “detail and the spirit” of public health measures as the province deals with community spread of a variant of concern first reported in the U.K.

With 1,078 reported cases of the B117 variant reported on a federal tracking site as of Wednesday evening, Alberta trails only one other province — Ontario — in total reported cases of the more transmissible variant.

“The B117 variant is spreading in many different contexts and many different settings,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at a briefing on Wednesday. “And we’re seeing higher attack rates than we typically do in settings where people are exposed.”

Hinshaw said that so far, the cases the province has seen of the P1 variant (linked to Brazil) and the B1351 variant (first reported in South Africa) have been few in number and linked to travel.

The B117 variant, however, has been established in the community.

“While we are continuing to work hard to slow its spread, it is spreading in all zones of our province.”


Hinshaw said that while vaccination efforts are ramping up, the province is not yet at a point where the vaccination coverage is sufficient to “prevent severe outcomes.”

“For the next couple of months, including spring break, we need to just hold on and protect our communities with our choices.”

Hinshaw highlighted some progress around vaccinations, pointing to the province’s plan to offer first doses to all adults who want one by the end of June.

Alberta is not the only province concerned about the spread of variants of concern. As of Wednesday evening, the Public Health Agency of Canada had reported more than 4,200 cases of the variants, including:

  • 3,946 of the B117 variant.
  • 240 of the B1351 variant.
  • 71 of the P1 variant.

Ontario has seen the highest total number of cases of variants of concern of any province, with 1,134 cases of the B117 variant, 47 of the B1351 variant and 34 of the P1 variant.

In Saskatchewan, there’s growing worry about variants of concern in Regina, which has seen more than 80 per cent of the province’s variant cases.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Twitter that with the increase of variant cases, “maintaining public health measures and individual precautions is crucial to reducing infection rates and avoiding a rapid reacceleration of the epidemic and its severe outcomes.”

-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Inside the race to get COVID-19 vaccines to Canadians:

CBC’s David Cochrane goes inside the processes of vaccine delivery and distribution as well as the challenges to deliver on the promise of at least one shot for every Canadian who wants it by July 1. 4:08

As of early Thursday morning, Canada had reported 919,244 cases of COVID-19, with 31,600 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,554.

In Atlantic Canada, there were three cases of COVID-19 reported on Wednesday — two in Nova Scotia and one in New Brunswick. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland and Labrador.

In Quebec, health officials reported 703 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 13 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health officials also reported a rise in the number intensive care patients, up 16 compared with the prior day, for a total of 107. Total hospitalizations dropped by one, to 532.

Health officials in Ontario reported 1,508 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 additional deaths on Wednesday. A provincial dashboard listed the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations as 741, with 300 of those patients in the province’s intensive care units.

The top doctors in Ontario’s two main COVID-19 hot spots are preparing for warmer weather. Dr. Eileen de Villa and Dr. Lawrence Loh said they’re seeking to ease some of the restrictions on outdoor activities in Toronto and Peel.

Both medical officers want to keep their communities in the strictest “grey-lockdown” category of Ontario’s colour-coded pandemic framework, but with adjustments that would allow for outdoor dining and fitness.

In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 96 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and no additional deaths.

The Manitoba government also moved to reduce the minimum age for COVID-19 vaccines by two years — to 53 and up for First Nations people, and 73 and up for others. Those numbers do not include younger age groups with underlying health conditions that are already eligible for vaccination.

In Saskatchewan, health officials reported 87 new cases and one additional death on Wednesday. The Saskatchewan Health Authority urged people to be vigilant in the face of variant of concern cases, particularly in the Regina area.

Across the North, Nunavut will now count 12 additional cases of COVID-19, including three deaths, in the territory’s total case count. The new numbers come from Nunavut residents who caught COVID-19 or died from the virus while in Manitoba.

Nunavut Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said it’s been unclear since the start of the pandemic which jurisdiction these numbers would fall under. The cases and deaths occurred between December 2020 and January 2021. Patterson said attribution of cases of COVID-19 acquired outside the territory will continue to occur on a case-by-case basis.

There were no new cases reported in Yukon or the Northwest Territories on Wednesday.

In British Columbia, health officials reported 498 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. A joint statement from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said no data about variant cases was available Wednesday due to a lab sequencing issue.

-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET


What’s happening around the world

As of early Thursday morning, more than 121.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.6 million.

In Africa, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the suspension of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in some European Union nations hurts efforts to build public confidence and trust in vaccines on the continent of 1.3 billion people.

John Nkengasong said in a briefing Thursday that despite “unfortunate events” in Europe, African nations should continue rolling out the AstraZeneca vaccine, the only shot currently available in many countries that have accessed batches of it through the COVAX initiative.


A nurse prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine at Mulago referral hospital in Kampala, on the first day of a vaccination campaign last week. (Badru Katumba/AFP/Getty Images)

Nkengasong said a recent meeting convened by his group concluded that vaccine-related decisions in Africa should not be “based on anything that is subjective.” He said instead there should be continuous monitoring and reporting of any adverse events following inoculations.

At least 22 of Africa’s 54 nations have received more than 14 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine as of March 13, according to the World Health Organization.

The European Medicines Agency, which is expected to update its findings later Thursday, has said there is “no indication” the AstraZeneca shot is responsible for dangerous blood clots in a few recipients. The World Health Organization has also said the benefits of the vaccine outweigh any risks and recommends its continued use. Other European nations are proceeding with vaccinations despite safety worries in countries such as Germany.

In Europe, Italy inaugurated a living monument to its COVID-19 dead Thursday as it marked the anniversary of one of the most haunting moments of the pandemic: when Bergamo’s death toll reached such heights that an army convoy had to transport coffins out because its cemeteries and crematoriums were full.

Premier Mario Draghi visited the northern city on Thursday to commemorate a national day of mourning for Italy’s coronavirus victims. Flags flew at half-mast around the country and public authorities observed a minute of silence.

Draghi laid a wreath at Bergamo’s cemetery and inaugurated a forest named in honour of the more than 100,000 victims in Italy, the first country in the West to be hit by the outbreak.

“This wood doesn’t only contain only the memory of the many victims,” Draghi said. “This place is a symbol of the pain of an entire nation.”

The anniversary came as much of Italy including Bergamo is under new lockdown, with schools and restaurants shuttered, amid a new surge of infections. And it comes as Italy’s halting vaccination campaign has slowed down further because of the suspension of AstraZeneca shots pending review.


A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during home visits to carry out vaccinations in Rome on Wednesday. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

France is set to announce new coronavirus restrictions on Thursday, including a potential lockdown in the Paris region and in the north of the country, as the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units spikes.

“We will make the decisions we need to make,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday while visiting the hospital of Poissy and Saint-Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris. He said measures will be “pragmatic, proportionated and targeted.”

Prime Minister Jean Castex is scheduled to detail new restrictions on Thursday. The virus is rapidly spreading in the Paris region, where the rate of infection has reached over 420 per 100,000 inhabitants and ICUs are closed to saturation. France’s nationwide infection rate is about 250 per 100,000.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Pakistani authorities are warning that strict lockdown measures may need to be implemented if the public continues to violate physical-distancing measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Health authorities say a potential lockdown could include closing businesses and restrictions on economic and social activities. The warning was issued Thursday by the National Command and Control Center, which oversees Pakistan’s response to COVID-19.

Amid a third wave of the coronavirus that is gripping Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, and the northern part of the country, Pakistani health and administrative authorities have imposed a partial lockdown in affected areas since last week. Pakistan has reported 615,810 virus cases among 13,717 deaths.

Thailand will procure an additional 100,000 doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine to be used and paid for by businesses, in the first phase of a private sector vaccination scheme.

In the Americas, Paraguayan opposition lawmakers lost a bid to impeach President Mario Abdo over the government’s handling of the pandemic.

The United States is investing $ 12.25 billion on ramping up COVID-19 testing to help schools reopen safely and promote testing equity among high-risk and under-served populations.

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Former FC Barcelona officials detained after raid on soccer club, Spanish media report

Catalan police detained several people after raiding Barcelona’s stadium on Monday in a search and seize operation, adding to the club’s turmoil less than a week before it elects a new president.

The operation was related to last year’s “Barcagate,” in which club officials were accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players who were critical of the club and then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Police said detentions were made but did not say who or how many people were taken into custody. Spanish media said Bartomeu and other former club officials were among those detained.

Authorities spent several hours at the team’s headquarters searching documents and talking to employees.

The club, mired in debt of more than 1.1 billion euros ($ 1.68 billion Cdn), said it offered “full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation.”

It added the case was related “to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks.”

“The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case. FC Barcelona (expresses) its utmost respect for the judicial process in place and for the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within the remit of this investigation,” the club said.

The club did not mention Bartomeu.  A text message sent to Bartomeu was not immediately answered.

Key former officials detained

One of the three presidential candidates, Joan Laporta, told Lleida Radio that what happened on Monday “was a consequence of the bad management by the previous administration.”

He said news of Bartomeu’s reported detention was “shocking” and “not good” for the club, but said the former president deserved the “presumption of innocence.”

Laporta was Barcelona’s president a decade ago and, like Bartomeu, also faced a no-confidence vote during his time in charge.

Among those reportedly detained were club CEO Oscar Grau and legal department chief Roman Gomez Ponti. Jaume Masferrer, Bartomeu’s former chief of staff, also was allegedly detained.


Police say several people were detained but did not say who or how many were taken into custody. (AP/Joan Monfort)

They were taken to a police station for interrogation, Spanish media said, and police also went to Bartomeu’s house searching for evidence. 

Court officials said a judge ordered the search and seize operation but the detentions were made at the discretion of the police agents involved. Authorities said the operation was being carried out by the police’s financial crimes department.

A period of struggles

Barcelona has denied accusations that it hired – and overpaid – a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.

The company was accused of using fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures when they expressed views that went against the club. Some of the figures were reported to have included players such Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.

The club later released an independent audit report showing that there was no wrongdoing.

Bartomeu and his board of directors resigned last year amid fallout from the controversy surrounding Messi. The club has been mired in political turmoil and debt prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The club has been managed by a caretaker board since Bartomeu left in October while facing a no-confidence motion supported by thousands of club members furious at the team’s poor performances and the club’s financial situation.

The club’s struggles began to surface after the team’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League last season, which was the first without a title for the Spanish club since the 2007/08 season.

Bartomeu was loudly criticized by Messi, especially after the former president denied the player’s request to leave the club at the end of last season. Messi’s contract ends this season and the Argentine great has yet to say whether he will stay or go.

Barcelona is five points off the Spanish league lead. It lost at home to Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League and was beaten by Sevilla 2-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals.
 

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Veteran Canadian Olympic officials dismiss ‘silly’ calls to move 2022 Games from China

A number of Canadian politicians have called for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China, to be relocated to another country, but Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, says such a move is unfeasible at this late date.

“What the politicians are doing with this kind of a request of moving the Games with less than a year to go is silly,” said Pound, a former president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “If they give this 30 seconds of thought, they know it’s not possible.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and other politicians, including Green Party Leader Annamie Paul and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, have called for the relocation of the Games, pointing to the Chinese government’s treatment of its Muslim minority population.

Concerns have also been raised over China’s actions in Hong Kong and the ongoing detention of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

WATCH | Pound dismisses idea of boycott:

Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, says athletes shouldn’t pay the price for the government’s dissatisfaction with China. 6:45

Two of the people involved in organizing the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics agree the logistics involved in staging a Games make a move impossible.

“The ability for a country to step in this late — the headwinds are fierce,” said John Furlong, who was head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC).

“It makes for great headlines and it makes for great debate, but the truth is, it’s far too down the road to contemplate.”

Dave Cobb, who was VANOC’s deputy chief operating officer, said it takes years to prepare for an Olympics.

“It’s such a massive [project] that we took seven years and we needed every week of those seven years to be ready,” said Cobb.

The 2022 Winter Games are scheduled to open Feb. 4.

WATCH | Erin O’Toole says ’22 Olympics should be moved:

Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole is calling on the International Olympic Committee to relocate the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games amid what he calls a genocide against minority Uighurs. 1:43

Politicians call for action against Beijing Games

A multi-party group of 13 MPs also released an open letter calling for the Olympics to be relocated. Jean-Luc Brassard, a gold medallist at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, signed the letter along with some Canadian non-governmental organizations.

Annamie Paul has suggested Canada should consider the feasibility of hosting the Games, but Cobb said the timeline is too short.

“We could not replicate anywhere close to what we had in Vancouver in 2010, because so much of it takes years of advance planning,” he said.

WATCH | Bring It In panel on whether boycotts work:

Morgan Campbell is joined by Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin, to discuss the recent call from over 180 human rights organizations to boycott the Beijing Games in 2022, due to human rights violations in China. 8:07

Pound said moving the Games is a non-starter for the IOC.

“We certainly haven’t discussed it and have no intention of discussing it,” he said.

David Shoemaker, the CEO and secretary general of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said in a statement that moving the Games now “would be next to impossible.”

Massive undertaking

Furlong compared organizing an Olympics to “staging three Super Bowls a day for 17 days.”

A new host city would need the sports venues and an athletes village capable of housing the thousands of competitors attending the Games. There’s also the logistics of security, transportation, recruiting thousands of volunteers needed to stage the event and securing accommodation for officials and media.

“If you think of Vancouver, it took us eight months just to put the governance model in place,” Furlong said. “You’d have to build an organization capable of delivering the Games.

“You can certainly sit and dream and say you could do it, but no one would reasonably say, ‘I think we can pull that off,’ and deliver it anything near the standard that’s required for the Games.”

Cost is another issue. The estimated budget for the Beijing Games is $ 3.9 billion US. Furlong said the money the IOC has committed to Beijing has already been spent. That would leave a new host country scrambling to find cash to pay for the event.

“I would say the chances of any government being willing to do that are slim,” said Furlong.

The last two cities to host a Winter Olympics were Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018 and Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Furlong said many of the facilities in those cities have been re-purposed for non-sports uses.

WATCH | Trudeau says human rights issues being thoroughly examined:

After Conservative leader Erin O’Toole called for the Beijing 2022 Olympics to be relocated due to what he labelled a genocide against minority Uighurs, Prime Minister Trudeau was hesitant to use the term genocide, but says they have been “very vocal in standing up for human rights around the world” and they, along with the International Olympic Committee and Canadian Olympic Committee, will continue to follow the issue. 3:30

Even in Vancouver, facilities would need to be reconditioned.

“Some of them would be straightforward, some of them would be extremely complicated,” said Furlong.

Pound said relocating the Games to Sochi would be difficult, because Russian athletes have been banned from competing at all major sporting events until December 2022 because of a doping scandal.

Move would be ‘complete humiliation’ for China

Cobb said one option could be spreading events around several cities in different countries.

“You could put on a hockey game at Rogers Arena [in Vancouver], or you could put on a ski event in Whistler, but it wouldn’t have many of the unique elements which Olympic Games are all about,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is another factor for countries to consider.

“How many countries would be ready to receive all the people, the employees and the media and everyone who would be suddenly descending on them,” he said.

Moving the Games from China could also have legal and political implications.

Beijing will be the first city to host both a summer and winter Olympics.

Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in the economics of sports, gaming and gambling at Concordia University, said taking away the Winter Games would be seen “as the ultimate affront” by the Chinese government.

“This is a complete sort of humiliation,” he said. “They’re not going to take it too kindly.”

Furlong said it also could make potential bid cities nervous.

“It would make countries feel that they were vulnerable, that you could do this any time,” he said.

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U.S. watchdog probing whether Justice Department officials tried to overturn election

The U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general is launching an investigation to examine whether any former or current department officials “engaged in an improper attempt” to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said Monday that the investigation will investigate allegations concerning the conduct of former and current Justice Department officials but will not extend to other government officials.

The Justice Department watchdog investigation follows a report in The New York Times that a former assistant attorney general, Jeffrey Clark, had been discussing a plan with then-president Donald Trump to oust the acting attorney general and try to challenge the results of the 2020 race by falsely saying there had been widespread election fraud.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded the inspector general launch a probe “into this attempted sedition.” The New York Democrat said it was “unconscionable a Trump Justice Department leader would conspire to subvert the people’s will.”

The watchdog’s probe is part of a growing number of efforts underway to investigate the attempts by Trump and his allies to subvert the election results. The moves culminated in a deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and a second impeachment of Trump, this time for inciting an insurrection. Also on Monday, the voting machine company Dominion Systems filed a defamation suit against Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani for his repeatedly false claims about widespread voting fraud in the election.


Dominion Systems is suing Rudy Giuliani for repeatedly making false claims about widespread voting fraud in the election. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Election officials across the country, along with Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, have confirmed there was no widespread fraud in the election. Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia, key battleground states won by Democrat Joe Biden, also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states. Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Indonesia officials say rescuers have found body parts, debris from plane crash

Indonesian rescuers pulled body parts, pieces of clothing and scraps of metal from the Java Sea early Sunday morning, a day after a Boeing 737-500 with 62 people onboard crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, officials said.

Officials were hopeful they were homing in on the wreckage of Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 after sonar equipment detected a signal from the aircraft.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi told reporters that authorities have launched massive search efforts after identifying “the possible location of the crash site.”

“These pieces were found by the SAR team between Lancang Island and Laki Island,” National Search and Rescue Agency Bagus Puruhito said in a statement.

Indonesian military chief Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto said teams on the Rigel navy ship equipped with a remote-operated vehicle had detected a signal from the aircraft, which fit the coordinates from the last contact made by the pilots before the plane went missing.


Search and rescue teams conduct operations at sea where the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 is suspected to have crashed on Sunday. (Adek Berry/AFP via Getty Images)

“We have immediately deployed our divers from navy’s elite unit to determine the finding to evacuate the victims,” Tjahjanto said.

More than 12 hours since the Boeing plane operated by the Indonesian airline lost contact, little is known about what caused the crash.

Fishermen in the area around Thousand Islands, a chain of islands north of Jakarta’s coast, reported hearing an explosion around 2:30 p.m. local time Saturday.

“We heard something explode, we thought it was a bomb or a tsunami since after that we saw the big splash from the water,” fisherman Solihin, who goes by one name, told The Associated Press by phone.


“It was raining heavily and the weather was so bad. So it is difficult to see around clearly. But we can see the splash and a big wave after the sounds. We were very shocked and directly saw the plane debris and the fuel around our boat.”

Sumadi said Flight SJ182 was delayed for an hour before it took off at 2:36 p.m. local time. It disappeared from radar four minutes later, after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude of 8,839 metres, he said.

There were 62 people on board, including seven children and three babies.


Relatives of passengers on board missing Sriwijaya Air flight 182 wait for news at the Supadio airport in Pontianak on Indonesia’s Borneo island on Saturday. (Louis Anderson/AFP via Getty Images)

Authorities established two crisis centres, one at airport and one at port. Families gathered to wait for news of loved ones.

On social media, people began circulating the flight manifest with photos and videos of those who were listed as passengers. One video shows a woman with her children waving goodbye while walking through the airport.

Plane was ‘airworthy’

Sriwijaya Air President Director Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said the plane, which is 26 years old and previously used by airlines in the United States, was airworthy. He told reporters Saturday that the plane had previously flown to Pontianak and Pangkal Pinang city on the same day.

“Maintenance report said everything went well and airworthy,” Jauwena told a news conference. He said the plane was delayed due to bad weather, not because of any damage.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards.


Indonesian soldiers stand near a crisis centre set up at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia, on Saturday. (Tatan Syuflana/The Associated Press)

In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. The plane involved in Saturday’s incident did not have the automated flight-control system that played a role in the Lion Air crash and another crash of a 737 MAX 8 jet in Ethiopia five months later, leading to the grounding of the MAX 8 for 20 months.

The Lion Air crash was Indonesia’s worst airline disaster since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda airlines flight near Medan on Sumatra island. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people.

Sriwijaya Air has only has several minor incidents in the past, though a farmer was killed in 2008 when landing plane went off runway due to a hydraulic issue.

The United States banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the country in 2007, but reversed the decision in 2016, citing improvements in compliance with international aviation standards. The European Union has previously had similar bans, lifting them in June 2018.

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Yemeni officials say blast at Aden airport kills 22, wounds 50

A large explosion struck the airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Wednesday, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed cabinet landed there, security officials said. At least 22 people were killed and 50 were wounded in the blast.

The source of the explosion was not immediately clear and no group claimed responsibility for attacking the airport. No one on the government plane was hurt.

Officials later reported another explosion close to a palace in the city where the cabinet members were transferred following the airport attack.

AP footage from the scene at the airport showed members of the government delegation disembarking as the blast shook the grounds. Many ministers rushed back inside the plane or ran down the stairs, seeking shelter.

Thick smoke rose into the air from near the terminal building. Officials at the scene said they saw bodies lying on the tarmac and elsewhere at the airport.

Yemeni Communication Minister Naguib al-Awg, who was also on the plane, told The Associated Press that he heard two explosions, suggesting they were drone attacks.

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and the others were quickly whisked from the airport to Mashiq Palace in the city.

Military and security forces sealed off the area around the the palace.

“It would have been a disaster if the plane was bombed,” al-Awg said, insisting the plane was the target of the attack as it was supposed to land earlier.

Saeed tweeted that he and his cabinet were safe and unhurt. He called the explosions a “cowardly terrorist act” that was part of the war on “the Yemeni state and our great people.”

Death toll rises

Mohammed al-Roubid, deputy head of Aden’s health office, told the AP that at least 16 people were killed in the explosion and 60 were wounded. Later, the Interior Ministry raised the casualty toll to at least 22 dead and 50 wounded.

Images shared on social media from the scene showed rubble and broken glass strewn about near the airport building and at least two lifeless bodies, one of them charred, lying on the ground.

In another image, a man was trying to help another man whose clothes were torn to get up from the ground.

According to one Yemeni security official, three Red Cross workers were among the wounded. It was not clear if they were Yemenis or of other nationalities. He and other officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.


People run following an explosion at the airport in Aden, Yemen, shortly after a plane carrying the newly formed cabinet landed on Wednesday. (The Associated Press)

Officials said another explosion hit close to the heavily fortified Mashiq Palace, where the cabinet members were taken following the explosion at the airport.

The source of that blast and whether it occurred before or after the cabinet members arrived was not immediately known. There were no immediate reports of fatalities and the officials said the cabinet members arrived safely.

UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, condemned the explosion as an “unacceptable act of violence.” He said in a tweet that it was “a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing #Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.”

Egypt, Jordan and the Arab League also condemned the attacks.

Returning from Riyadh

The ministers were returning to Aden from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, after being sworn in last week as part of a reshuffle following a deal with rival southern separatists.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government has worked mostly from self-imposed exile in Riyadh during the country’s years-long civil war.

The Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed al-Jaber, described the attack as a “cowardly terrorist act targeting the Yemeni people, their security and stability.”

Despite “the disappointment and confusion caused by those who create death and destruction,” the peace agreement between the government and southern separatists “will go forward,” he insisted.

Yemen’s embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in exile in Saudi Arabia, announced a cabinet reshuffle earlier this month.

The reshuffle was seen as a major step toward closing a dangerous rift between Hadi’s government and southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates.

The Saudi-backed government is at war with with Iran-allied Houthi rebels, who control most of northern Yemen as well as the country’s capital, Sanaa.


Bystanders and a soldier stand near a damaged portion of the airport of Yemen’s southern city of Aden’s after Wednesday’s explosion. (Majid Saleh/The Associated Press)

Country engulfed in civil war

Naming a new government was part of a power-sharing deal between the Saudi-backed Hadi and the Emirati-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council, an umbrella group of militias seeking to restore an independent southern Yemen, which existed from 1967 until unification in 1990.

The blast underscores the dangers facing Hadi’s government in the port city, which was a scene of bloody fighting between forces of the internationally recognized government and the U.A.E.-backed separatists.

In a video message posted on his Twitter account later, Saeed, the Yemeni prime minister, said his government was in Aden “to stay.” The city has been the seat of Hadi’s government since Houthi rebels overran the capital Sanaa in 2014.

Last year, the Houthis fired a missile at a military parade of newly graduated fighters of a militia loyal to the U.A.E. at a military base in Aden, killing dozens.

In 2015, then-Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and members of his government survived a missile attack, blamed on the Houthis, on an Aden hotel used by the government.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been engulfed in civil war since 2014, when the Shia Houthi rebels overran the north and Sanaa. The following year, a Saudi-led military coalition intervened to wage war on the Houthis and restore Hadi’s government to power.

The war has killed more than 112,000, including thousands of civilians. The conflict also resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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Public health officials provide details on COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Public health officials are set to provide more details on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan as the Conservatives push the Liberals for more information on how and when they will be distributed.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and his party’s health critic Michelle Rempel Garner held a news conference Thursday to discuss an opposition day motion that will ask the government to release its plan by Dec. 16. 

O’Toole accused the government of failing to provide Canadians with a plan and timeframe for vaccine distribution.

“Without a concrete timeline for vaccines, businesses won’t have the confidence to reinvest in their operations and rehire Canadians who have been laid off during the pandemic,” he said.

“Without a reliable timeline, or details, provinces have the impossible task of establishing complex supply chains with no lead time.”

More details on the government’s plan are expected at noon ET today when Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo and other officials provide a briefing on logistics for distribution of the vaccine.

The motion calls for a status update on:

  • How each type of vaccine will be safely delivered to Canada, stored and distributed to Canadians.
  • The date on which each vaccine type will first be deployed in Canada and the rate of vaccinations anticipated by month.
  • Any planned federal guidance with respect to the deployment of the vaccine by priority group, such as front-line health workers and seniors.
  • The plan to distribute the vaccine to Indigenous communities, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans.

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Health officials warn of increasing strain on B.C. hospital system due to COVID-19

The latest:

Health officials in British Columbia are warning of increasing strain on the health-care system as COVID-19 hospitalizations hit 209 — the highest they’ve been in the province since the global pandemic began. 

The province reported 762 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths on Wednesday, with the majority of the cases concentrated in the densely populated Lower Mainland.

“This second surge is putting a strain on our health-care system, our workplaces and us all,” said a statement from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix. 

With case numbers on the rise in B.C. and across much of the country, Premier John Horgan on Wednesday called on Ottawa to work with provinces to discourage non-essential inter-provincial travel.

“We need a pan-Canadian approach to travel,” Horgan said. “That is, the people of Quebec and Ontario and Manitoba need to know that they should stay in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba until we get to a place where we can start distributing a vaccine across the country.”

In neighbouring Alberta, the chief medical officer of health warned on Wednesday that if the province doesn’t change its current COVID-19 trajectory the “implications are grim.”

The province reported 730 new cases and 11 additional deaths on Wednesday. Hospitalizations stood at 287, with 57 in intensive care. 

“This is deadly serious. I have asked for kindness but I also ask for firmness,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. “The need to control our spread and protect our health system is why I ask everyone, anywhere in the province, to abide by all public health measures.”


What’s happening across Canada

Canada’s COVID-19 case count — as of early Thursday morning — stood at 311,110, with 51,603 of those considered active cases. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 11,186.

In Saskatchewan, health officials reported one additional death and 132 more COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 2,099.

The province recently stepped up its public health regulations, making masks mandatory in indoor public spaces and limiting the number of people allowed at private indoor gatherings to five. 

WATCH | Suffering through a COVID-19 lockdown in long-term care:

Months of isolation in her Saskatchewan long-term care facility brought Chelsea Dreher to the brink of suicide. As the province restricts care home visitors again, she shares her story with CBC News. 2:02

Manitoba’s top doctor said Wednesday it’s a “very daunting time” in the province as health officials announced 11 additional deaths and 400 more cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations in the province hit 249, with 40 in intensive care.

Dr. Brent Roussin said in recent days contract tracers have dealt with hundreds of cases that don’t have a known source of exposure to the novel coronavirus.

In Nunavut, health officials reported 10 additional cases on Wednesday, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 70.

“This is it, folks — it’s time to take a stand and fight against COVID-19,” Premier Joe Savikataaq said as he provided an update on the first day of a two-week lockdown.

WATCH: Concerns about health-care access as Nunavut enters COVID-19 lockdown:

Nunavut has begun a two-week lockdown, after COVID-19 cases more than doubled this week. There are fears the virus will overwhelm the territory’s fragile health-care system. 2:03

There was one new case reported in Yukon on Wednesday and no new cases reported in the Northwest Territories.

In hard-hit Ontario, health officials reported 1,210 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, with 361 new cases in Peel Region, 346 in Toronto and 143 in York Region.

As of Wednesday, hospitalizations stood at 535, with 127 in intensive care.

Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday warned that some of the province’s “red” zones could be facing another lockdown.

Quebec on Wednesday reported 1,179 new cases of COVID-19 and 35 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including eight that occurred in the past 24 hours.

Health officials said hospitalizations increased by 14, to 652, and 100 people were in intensive care, the same number as the prior day.

In Atlantic Canada, there were nine new cases of COVID-19 reported in New Brunswick, with five of the new cases in the Moncton area. 

There were three new cases reported in Nova Scotia and two new cases reported in Newfoundland and Labrador. In Prince Edward Island, which has just three active cases, there were no new cases reported.


What’s happening around the world

WATCH | Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine heads into approval phase:

Pfizer is preparing to formally ask for emergency use authorization for its vaccine in the U.S., after new data showed it’s safe and 95 per cent effective. The vaccine’s approval in Canada could come within the next couple of months. 4:04

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 10:10 a.m. ET

As of early Thursday morning, there were more than 56.3 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 36.2 million of those cases listed as recovered, according to a COVID-19 tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.3 million.

A day after an update from Pfizer about its potential COVID-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s potential COVID-19 vaccine produced a strong immune response in older adults, data published on Thursday showed, with researchers expecting to release late-stage trial results by Christmas.

In the Americas, long lines to get tested have reappeared across the U.S. ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday  — a reminder that the nation’s strained testing system remains unable to keep pace with the virus.

The delays are happening as the country braces for winter weather, flu season and holiday travel, all of which are expected to amplify a U.S. outbreak that has already swelled past 11.5 million cases and 250,000 deaths.

Conditions inside the nation’s hospitals are deteriorating by the day as the coronavirus rages across the U.S. at an unrelenting pace.

“We are depressed, disheartened and tired to the bone,” said Alison Johnson, director of critical care at Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee, noting that she drives to and from work some days in tears.

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 in the U.S. has doubled in the past month and set new records every day this week. As of Tuesday, nearly 77,000 were hospitalized with the virus.

The out-of-control surge is leading governors and mayors across the U.S. to grudgingly issue mask mandates, limit the size of private and public gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving, ban indoor restaurant dining, close gyms or restrict the hours and capacity of bars, stores and other businesses.

New York City’s school system — the nation’s largest, with more than one million students — suspended in-person classes Wednesday amid a mounting infection rate, a painful setback in a corner of the country that suffered mightily in the spring but had seemingly beaten back the virus months ago.

Texas is rushing thousands of additional medical staff to overworked hospitals as the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide accelerates toward 8,000 for the first time since a deadly summer outbreak.

Meanwhile, in Uruguay, a relatively coronavirus-free zone in hard-hit Latin America, health officials are starting to see a worrying rise in cases.

The African continent has surpassed two million confirmed cases as the top public health official warned Thursday that “we are inevitably edging toward a second wave” of infections.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the 54-nation continent had crossed the milestone. Africa has seen more than 48,000 deaths from COVID-19. Its infections and deaths make up less than four per cent of the global total.

In Europe, Russia on Thursday surpassed two million cases after reporting an additional 23,610 infections and 463 deaths related to COVID-19, both record daily rises.

WATCH | Inside a Moscow COVID-19 ward:

A well-equipped, high-tech COVID-19 ward set up inside a Moscow convention centre is a stark contrast to the overwhelmed hospitals elsewhere in Russia. CBC News got a first-hand look at the facility and found out what’s creating the disparity in health care. 6:34

Ukraine registered a record of 13,357 new cases in the past 24 hours, while the number of deaths also hit a new high.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the leader of the small Pacific nation of Samoa appealed for calm Thursday after the country reported its first positive test for the coronavirus, although a second test on the same patient returned a negative result.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi addressed the nation live on television and radio, urging people to remain vigilant with their virus precautions.

Samoa was among a dwindling handful of nations to have not reported a single case of the virus.

According to the Samoa Observer, the prime minister said the patient was a sailor who had been staying in a quarantine facility since flying in from New Zealand on Friday. He said the sailor returned a positive test four days after arriving, but then a second test on Thursday returned a negative result.

Tokyo raised its coronavirus alert to the highest level as the city’s daily tally of new infections rose to a record 534, while daily cases in Japan also hit a new record of 2,259.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for closer international co-operation on making a vaccine for the coronavirus available.

“To beat the virus and promote the global recovery, the international community must close ranks and jointly respond to the crisis and meet the tests,” Xi said in an address delivered via video at an event at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum.

Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm are in the late stages of testing vaccines, putting them among nearly a dozen companies at or near that level of development. That has introduced both commercial and political competition among countries and companies to be the first to offer a solution to the pandemic.

In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday said it registered 13,421 new infections in 24 hours, a new daily record. The country has reported more than 800,000 cases and more than 42,000 deaths.

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Health officials ‘cautiously optimistic’ a COVID-19 vaccine will be ready by early next year

Top health officials say they are “cautiously optimistic” about Canada’s odds of obtaining a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for distribution sometime in the first quarter of 2021.

But even if that timeline is met, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam warns that doses would be in short supply at first — which would force governments to decide who gets immunized first.

“While that supply will continue to increase over time, it does mean that federal, provincial and territorial governments will have to make important decisions about how to use the initial vaccine supply,” Tam told reporters at a press conference Friday.

Tam said preliminary guidelines published earlier this week by Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), a multi-disciplinary panel of experts, should help guide decisions on who should be first in line.

Key populations identified by NACI for early immunization include seniors and people with high-risk conditions, health care workers, long-term care providers and people who can’t work virtually, such as police, firefighters and grocery staff.

“There are many conversations to be had about who gets those first doses of vaccines,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The most vulnerable, Indigenous peoples, frontline health workers — these are the kinds of populations we’re looking at for their high degree of vulnerability. But of course, those are conversations that will be had amongst provinces and territories and including experts.”

WATCH: Dr. Howard Njoo discusses COVID vaccine approvals, now expected early next year

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer spoke with reporters at the pandemic briefing in Ottawa on Friday. 3:17

Canada betting on multiple vaccine candidates

The Government of Canada has signed deals with several teams of vaccine developers to reserve millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines in various stages of development — an effort to make sure Canadians can start getting immunized as soon as a vaccine becomes available.

While many vaccine candidates have shown promising early results, Tam warned that further research must be done in clinical trials to ensure they are safe and effective and Health Canada still needs to evaluate and approve any vaccines before they can be distributed.

Health Canada has so far received three official applications for vaccine approval, all of which are under review: from U.K.-based AstraZeneca, which is manufacturing a vaccine developed at the University of Oxford; from U.S. biotechnology firm Moderna, which launched the first Phase 3 clinical trial in the U.S. in July; and from U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech, which are collaborating on a vaccine.

“We will be receiving additional advice on prioritization based on the characteristics of each vaccine once approved,” said Tam.

WATCH: Trudeau says the first COVID vaccines are close to being approved but are tricky to handle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with reporters at the pandemic briefing in Ottawa on Friday. 2:41

Beyond deciding who will get priority, bureaucrats at all levels of government are working to ensure the infrastructure and equipment is in place to distribute vaccines once they are ready, said Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo.

That work includes procuring equipment (such as syringes) and ensuring there is cold storage infrastructure in place to store and transport vaccines — some of which need to be kept at extremely low temperatures.

Njoo pointed out that the vaccine furthest along the development phase needs to be stored at -80 C, which could pose logistical challenges for the pharmacies and doctor’s offices typically involved in vaccine distribution.

“That’s not the way most vaccines in Canada in the past … in fact, none of them have been obligated to have that kind of cold chain in terms of logistics,” said Njoo. “We have to … work out the mechanics in terms of buying the right kinds of freezers, etcetera, the transportation mechanisms, etcetera, to be able to assure that if that’s the first one out of the pipeline that get’s approved … that we’re able to do that in the most effective and efficient manner.”

Njoo said all vaccines will be free of charge to all Canadians once they become available.

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