China refused to give raw data on early COVID-19 cases to a World Health Organization-led team probing the origins of the pandemic, one of the team’s investigators said. The move potentially complicates efforts to understand how the outbreak began.
The team had requested raw patient data on the 174 cases of COVID-19 that China identified from the early phase of the outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019, as well as other cases, but were only provided with a summary, said Dominic Dwyer, an Australian infectious diseases expert who is a member of the team.
The United States has “deep concerns” about the way the findings of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 report were communicated, the White House said on Saturday. It called on China to make available data from the earliest days of the outbreak.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement that it is imperative that the report be independent and free from “alteration by the Chinese government.”
The raw data, known as “line listings,” would typically be anonymized but contain details such as what questions were asked of individual patients, their responses and how their responses were analyzed, he said.
“That’s standard practice for an outbreak investigation,” Dwyer said via video call from Sydney, where he is currently undergoing quarantine.
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While the Chinese authorities provided a lot of material, he said, the issue of access to the raw patient data would be mentioned in the team’s final report.
“The WHO people certainly felt that they had received much much more data than they had ever received in the previous year,” he said. “So that in itself is an advance.”
A summary of the team’s findings could be released as early as next week, the WHO said on Friday.
What’s happening in Canada
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Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says people need to continue what they’ve been doing but with “even more diligence” to counter the more contagious variants that have been identified in several provinces.
Speaking at a briefing on Friday, Tam said that means keeping up “individual public health practices” to limit spread, protecting the vulnerable and allowing time for vaccination programs to expand.
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As of Friday, eight provinces had reported more than 429 cases of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the U.K., she said.
There were also 28 recorded cases of the B1351 variant, which was first reported in South Africa, and one case of the P1 variant blamed for a surge of cases in Brazil.
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As of 10:05 a.m. ET Saturday, Canada had reported 820,612 cases of COVID-19, with 36,792 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,181.
Ontario on Saturday reported 1,300 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 additional deaths.
The provincial government on Friday issued a list of regions that will remain under a stay-at-home order while others transition into a colour-coded framework of restrictions, as of Feb. 16.
The only regions not transitioning out of the stay-at-home order on that date include Peel and York regions, Toronto and North Bay Parry Sound District.
In Quebec, health officials reported 984 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 additional deaths on Friday. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 849, with 137 people in intensive care units, according to an update published by the province on Friday.
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, while New Brunswick reported five new cases.
Newfoundland and Labrador is now battling a COVID-19 “variant of concern,” responsible for this week’s mass outbreak in the capital, according to Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health.
Effective immediately, the entire province is at Alert Level 5, with all but essential businesses closed, Fitzgerald announced Friday.
There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island on Thursday.
In Manitoba, Premier Brian Pallister announced a plan to procure a made-in-Canada vaccine that is in early trial stages.
The province on Friday reported 81 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths. There are now 240 COVID-19 patients in hospital in Manitoba, the government said in a news release, down by four from Thursday, with 29 of those people in intensive care, down by three.
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Saskatchewan reported 195 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths from the respiratory illness on Friday. There are currently 182 people in hospital due to COVID-19, 23 of whom are in intensive care.
In Alberta, health officials reported 314 new cases of COVID-19 and 16 more deaths on Friday.
British Columbia reported 445 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional deaths on Friday.
Ahead of the Family Day long weekend, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry repeated her plea for British Columbians to stay local and stick to their households, in accordance with public health orders and advice.
Across the North, Nunavut reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday in the community of Arviat, while health officials in the Northwest Territories reported one new case. There were no new cases reported in Yukon.
Here’s a look at what else is happening across Canada:
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday morning, more than 108 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 60.5 million of those cases listed as recovered or resolved in a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.3 million.
A COVID-19 vaccine shortage has forced California to temporarily close five mass vaccination sites, all in Los Angeles, including one at Dodger Stadium.
Over the past week, state health officials say they have received less than 20 per cent of the doses they need to maintain the sites.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city would exhaust its supply of Moderna first doses — two are required for full immunization — forcing it to close drive-thru and walk-up vaccination sites Friday and Saturday.
According to the Los Angeles Times, however, the sites closed even earlier than expected after running out of doses on Thursday.
They may not reopen until the city gets more supplies, perhaps next Tuesday or Wednesday. Smaller mobile vaccination clinics will continue operating
California leads the United States in COVID-19 deaths, with more than 45,000, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has seen more than 27.3 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 480,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
Vaccine supply constraints are slowing ambitious vaccination programs in the U.S., as massive sites capable of putting shots into thousands of arms daily in states, including New York, California, Florida and Texas, as well as hospitals and pharmacies, beg for more doses. In-person schooling can resume safely with masks, physical distancing and other strategies, but vaccination of teachers, while important, is not a prerequisite for reopening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
In Europe, Portugal is getting more help from its European Union partners to ease pressure on hospitals crunched by the pandemic, with France and Luxembourg the latest countries to offer medical workers.
The Portuguese Health Ministry said France is sending a doctor and three nurses, while Luxembourg is providing two doctors and two nurses. The ministry said in a statement late Thursday the medics should arrive next week.
The German army sent eight doctors and 18 nurses earlier this month to help at a Lisbon hospital. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital and in intensive care fell Thursday for the third straight day, but Portugal’s seven-day average of daily deaths remained the world’s highest, at 1.97 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In Africa, South Africa has secured millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines to fight the highly infectious COVID-19 variant that is dominant in the country.
Kenya is going ahead with its plan to inoculate its citizens using AstraZeneca’s vaccine, while Zimbabwe has bought 600,000 shots from China’s Sinopharm, in addition to 200,000 China has donated.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the first batch of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Japan on Friday, local media reported, with official approval for the shots expected within days as the country races to control a third wave of infections ahead of the Olympic Games.
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In the Americas, Mexico’s Health Ministry on Thursday reported 10,677 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,474 more fatalities from COVID-19, bringing the overall total to 1,968,566 cases and 171,234 deaths. The government said the real number of infected people and the death toll in Mexico are both likely significantly higher than reported levels.
In the Middle East, Israel began reopening its education system on Thursday after a more than six-week closure because of the surge in coronavirus infections.