بایگانی دسته: سیاتل تایم

Downgraded Isaias expected to scrape past Florida with heavy rains

Early bands of heavy rain from Isaias lashed Florida’s east coast early Sunday as authorities warily eyed the approaching storm, which threatened to snarl efforts to quell surging cases of the coronavirus across the region.

Isaias weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm late Saturday afternoon, but was still expected to bring heavy rain and flooding as it moves northward toward the U.S. mid-Atlantic near Florida.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center’s latest prediction had the storm scraping past Florida but not making landfall.

“Don’t be fooled by the downgrade,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned during a news conference on Saturday after the storm spent hours roughing up the Bahamas.

Florida authorities closed beaches, parks and virus testing sites, lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn’t blow away. The governor said the state is anticipating power outages and asked residents to have a week’s supply of water, food and medicine on hand.

Officials wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary, while safely social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

David Terrazas and Andrea Hagopian put shutters over the sliding glass doors at Maria’s Restaurant in Stuart, Fla., to prepare for the storm on Saturday. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In Palm Beach County, about 150 people were in shelters, said emergency management spokeswoman Lisa De La Rionda. The county has a voluntary evacuation order for those living in mobile or manufactured homes, or those who feel their home can’t withstand winds.

“We don’t anticipate many more evacuations,” she said, adding that the evacuees are physically distant from each other and are wearing masks, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Isaias is piling another burden on communities already hard-hit by other storms and sickness.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds declined steadily throughout Saturday, and were at 100 km/h by Sunday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

The centre of the storm was forecast to approach the southeast coast of Florida early Sunday morning, then travel up the state’s east coast throughout the day. Little change was expected in the storm’s strength over the next few days, forecasters said.

Tracking northward for days

Heavy rain, flooding and high winds could batter much of the U.S. East Coast this week as the system is forecast to track up or just off the Atlantic seaboard.

“It was expected to strengthen again, but at this point, that’s not expected to happen,” said The Weather Network’s Matt Di Nicolantonio.

The storm system could track into Atlantic Canada as a tropical depression by mid-week, he said.

Sea spray, sand and winds sweep across a street in Palm Beach as Florida readies for tropical storm Isaias on Saturday. (Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post via AP)

Despite the approaching storm, NASA says the return of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX capsule is still on track for Sunday afternoon. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing to make the first splashdown return in 45 years, after two months docked at the International Space Station. They are aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida Panhandle, and flight controllers are keeping close watch on the storm.

Isaias has already been destructive in the Caribbean: On Thursday, before it became a hurricane, it uprooted trees, destroyed crops and homes and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. One man died in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters that swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday.

Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and churned toward the Florida coast.

As the storm moves now toward the southeast coast of Florida, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Hallandale Beach, Florida, to South Santee River, South Carolina, and for Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. A storm surge watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach, and from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Cars drive past a sign displaying a hurricane warning in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday. (Wilfredo Lee/The Associated Press)

Coronavirus cases have surged in Florida in recent weeks, and the added menace of a storm ratcheted up the anxiety. State-run virus testing sites are closing in areas where the storm might hit because the sites are outdoor tents, which could topple in high winds.

Natalie Betancur, stocking up at a grocery in Palm Beach Gardens, said that the storm itself doesn’t cause her a great amount of concern.

“The hurricane is not that serious, but I feel that the public is really panicking because it’s a hurricane and we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” she said.

Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas opened shelters for people in Abaco island to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Hurricane Dorian devastated the area last September, killing at least 70 people.

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Some countries may get faster access to a COVID-19 vaccine than others. Here’s why

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world hard, and countries around the globe are anxious to get their hands on a vaccine as soon as possible in the hopes that it will bring a return to normalcy.

Those vaccines are expected to be in short supply when they first hit the market, meaning not everyone will have access initially. Within countries, some groups will be prioritized for vaccination.

But what about globally? Which countries will get the vaccines first?

Many wealthier nations are already making bets on vaccines still in relatively early stages of development, with no guarantee that they will ever perform well enough to gain approval or protect their populations.

That has many concerned about “vaccine nationalism,” where countries look out for their own interests at the expense of others.

Here’s a closer look at what wealthier countries are doing to ensure supplies for their own citizens, how that might affect other countries, how Canada might fare and what efforts are being made to distribute a vaccine more fairly.

What can countries do to obtain a vaccine first?

There are a few different ways wealthier countries can try to ensure their own supplies:

  • Provide funding for the development and manufacture of their own candidates to help speed it up.
  • Manufacture a vaccine within their own country and prevent it from being exported.
  • Make deals to reserve or preorder large numbers of doses.

What impact does that have on other countries?

In previous pandemics, such as an H1N1 outbreak in 2009, wealthier nations were able to buy up the first batches, leaving no supply for lower-income countries.

And even some richer countries, including Canada, weren’t always first in line if they didn’t have their own manufacturing facilities. During the swine flu outbreak in 1976, for example, the U.S. decided to vaccinate its entire population before it would allow vaccine producers to export their products to Canada.

What are countries doing to ensure their own supply?

The U.S. has a program called Operation Warp Speed, which aims to produce a vaccine faster than anyone else. President Donald Trump has said he hoped it would be available before the end of the year.

The program has already announced that it’s providing more than $6 billion US to pay for development, manufacturing and preorders or reservations for hundreds of millions of doses of promising vaccine candidates from U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Merck, along with U.K.-based AstraZeneca.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, holds up a model of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on July 2 in Washington on the plan to research, manufacture and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, known as Operation Warp Speed. (Saul Loeb/Pool via The Associated Press)

Similarly, the European Commission has a plan to use an emergency fund worth €2.4 billion (almost $3.7 billion Cdn) to buy up to six vaccines in advance for 450 million people.

Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands have also signed a deal with AstraZeneca for over 300 million doses of its vaccine, which they say all EU members can participate in. 

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has preordered nearly 200 million doses from AstraZeneca, BioNTech/Pfizer  and France-based Valneva.

There are concerns such preorders could reduce the initial availability of vaccines in the rest of the world, which has happened in previous pandemics  

The European Commission has specifically said it will not buy vaccines produced exclusively in the U.S. over concerns that might delay supplies to Europe.

What is Canada doing to ensure its own supply?

The federal government has created a $600 million fund to support vaccine clinical trials and manufacturing in Canada.

It is also “closely monitoring vaccine development efforts — domestically and internationally — and will work quickly to negotiate advanced purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturer(s) to secure supply for all Canadians as soon as it is feasible,” Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada, told CBC News in an email.

However, as of July 30, it hadn’t yet announced any such agreements.

The government has also announced it is ordering enough equipment, such as syringes, alcohol swabs and bandages, to give at least two doses of a vaccine to every Canadian when one becomes available.

Still, experts warn that Canada currently doesn’t have much manufacturing capacity for vaccines, even those developed in this country — many of which would be manufactured elsewhere and some of which would likely be licensed to foreign companies for manufacturing. 

Vials used by pharmacists to prepare syringes are used on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial of the potential vaccine for COVID-19 in March. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

Quebec City-based Medicago is the first Canadian vaccine candidate to begin clinical trials. But CEO Bruce Clark has said that his company’s main manufacturing plant is in the U.S., meaning there’s no guarantee that a supply would reach Canada in a timely manner.

“‘Guarantee’ is a strong word,” Clark told The Canadian Press in July. “Strange things happen to borders in the context of a pandemic.”

Dr. Noni MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, said Canada is a very small market.

“And we will not have a vaccine if the manufacturer doesn’t apply for approval,” said MacDonald, who has done research on ethical issues surrounding vaccines.

In the past, some manufacturers have not prioritized Canada, she said. For example, the manufacturer of the chicken pox vaccine didn’t apply for approval in Canada until it had already been available in the U.S. for five years.

Why should all countries have access to a vaccine?

Because it’s a global pandemic and our world is interconnected, outbreaks in any country have the potential to travel to other countries and cause outbreaks there, MacDonald said. “For you to be safe … your country needs to be safe and all other countries need to be safe.”

That’s even the case if the entire population is vaccinated, she said, as a given vaccine usually doesn’t work for everyone. 

Due to manufacturing and distribution constraints, when a vaccine first becomes available, there isn’t expected to be enough of it to vaccinate the entire populations of even countries wealthy and lucky enough to have preordered it. That means most of their populations could remain at risk for a long time if the pandemic isn’t under control in other parts of the world.

Outbreaks also tend to be worse and harder to control in poorer countries, posing a higher risk to both their own populations and the world.

A volunteer receives an injection of a COVID-19 test vaccine, developed at Oxford University in Britain, at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. (Siphiwe Sibeko/The Associated Press)

Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor emeritus at York University in Toronto who has studied pharmaceutical policy, said many wealthier countries such as Canada are able to do a pretty good job of controlling the virus without a vaccine through such measures as physical distancing, frequent handwashing, mask wearing and temporarily shutting down certain businesses and services. 

Meanwhile, lower-income countries where many people live in crowded conditions — some of them with limited access to things like clean water and soap — are struggling with both controlling the epidemic and treating those who have fallen ill.

“I think you need to look at where the outbreak is still the greatest threat to public health and also where the medical care resources are the lowest,” Lexchin said.

“You can make the case that however much we need a vaccine in Canada, there they need it much more than we do.”

What about global efforts to ensure a fair distribution?

There are some, but perhaps the biggest is the COVAX Facility, an initiative of the World Health Organization; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is a public-private partnership founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that vaccinates children against deadly diseases; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which aims to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics.

COVAX is pooling money from dozens of countries to invest in vaccine candidates around the world, with a goal of delivering two billion vaccine doses globally by 2021. 

The program is designed to connect developing and developed nations, with all partners getting enough doses of a successful vaccine for 20 per cent of their populations, initially prioritizing health-care workers. So far, it’s signed on 75 higher-income countries — including Canada but not the U.S. — to partner with 90 lower-income countries that together represent more than 60 per cent of the world’s population. It’s also joining forces with vaccine manufacturers.

Health workers screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms at the Deonar slum in Mumbai, India, on July 11. In just three weeks, India went from being the world’s sixth worst-affected country to the third, according to a tally of coronavirus cases by Johns Hopkins University. (Rajanish Kakade/The Associated Press)

The program includes investment in production facilities and incentives to scale up through preorders.

Because most vaccine candidates are not expected to succeed and make it to market, COVAX is designed to get higher-income countries to participate by improving the chance that they’ll invest in a successful vaccine.

“This is an initial opportunity for a wealthy country to kind of hedge their bets and protect their own interests and also contribute to a global effort to secure vaccine for people living in countries where the resources are not there to do it on their own,” said Prof. Ruth Faden, founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore.

“It’s very smart.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken in favour of and co-authored an op-ed article with leaders of other countries calling for equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s ready. Canada has already pledged $850 million to Global Coronavirus Response and $120 million toward the broader initiative that COVAX is part of, called the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, says it has raised $600 million US from higher-income countries and the private sector to provide an incentive for manufacturers to make enough vaccine to ensure access for developing countries.

Will efforts for a fair distribution of vaccines work?

York University’s Lexchin said it’s not clear if vaccines will be fairly distributed. He noted in an article in The Conversation that even for COVAX, rich countries will get the vaccine before poorer countries. And all countries will only be able to vaccinate their highest-priority groups, including health-care workers — just 20 per cent of the population through the program, limiting its influence.

At least one humanitarian group has expressed concern that the program doesn’t stop rich countries from buying up all the supply in advance, limiting what can be distributed to the rest of the world.

Lexchin said in an interview that middle-income countries such as Brazil and Mexico sometimes fall through the cracks, as they’re not poor enough to take advantage of lower prices offered by manufacturers, who set the prices.

He said he thinks leaders, including Canada’s, need to step up as well, by requiring that vaccines and treatments be made available at affordable prices to low- and middle-income countries if government funding was received for their development.

Still, MacDonald of Dalhousie University is cautiously optimistic.

“We’re in better shape to be more equitable about a COVID-19 vaccine globally than we were for the influenza pandemic,” she said.

“Do I think we’re going to get it right? … I hope we’ll get it more right.”

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Easing up on public drinking laws would be useful as bars reopen, infectious disease experts say

As bars and restaurants begin to reopen across Ontario and other provinces continue to see a significant rise in COVID-19 cases traced back to indoor eateries, some infectious disease experts say easing up on public drinking laws may not be such a bad idea.

Earlier this month, the City of Toronto reminded its residents that public drinking will not be tolerated at any beaches or parks and will, in fact, come with a fine of up to $300 for anybody caught doing so. 

Following that, Torontonians took to Twitter last weekend to comment about the “heavy police presence and ticketing” they noticed at parks, including Trinity Bellwoods, west of the downtown. 

Toronto lawyer Ryan O’Connor, who has an interest in public policy, said that with regulations in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, the city needs to reconsider its alcohol-consumption rules.

“Treat adults like adults,” O’Connor said.

“If it’s legal for me to have a drink on a patio, why isn’t it legal for me to to share a bottle of wine with my wife in a park while we’re having a picnic.” 

Drinking among friends in sprawling green spaces — where there’s much more room to physically distance — can keep people away from dangerously crowded indoor gatherings, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton who studies infectious diseases.

“There’s all these reports of transmission in bars and house parties. So why don’t we mitigate that risk?” Chagla said. “Let’s use the outdoors rather than forcing people indoors for their gatherings.”

Toronto moved into Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan on Friday, allowing bars and restaurants to resume serving patrons indoors under strict physical-distancing regulations.

But indoor eateries have proven to be risky environments for the novel coronavirus to spread, especially in British Columbia, where a sudden surge in cases led the province to announce stricter measures for restaurant operators. 

Equity needs to be considered

O’Connor said it’s not only a matter of personal freedom, it also comes down to equity . 

“This is not an issue for someone who has a big backyard in Rosedale where they can have their friends over and crack a beer,” he said, referring to a wealthy Toronto neighbourhood.

“It’s an entirely different story if you live in a 500-square-foot apartment or condo, and the only place you can have a drink safely is out in a public park.”

O’Connor said people from “all over the economic spectrum” who are already targeted by police because of their race or ethnicity are likely the ones getting ticketed. 

There are already laws in place that address public drunkenness, mischief and property destruction, he said, and stricter rules against public drinking due to the pandemic will allow for more targeting and carding in some cases. 

“Carding is permissible if there’s a bylaw officer or a police officer asking someone for ID If they’re examining whether or not they’re breaching the emergency legislation,” O’Connor said.

‘No interest in ticketing someone having a beer’

Since the start of the pandemic, 113 alcohol-related tickets have been issued in Toronto under the Liquor Licence Act and the city’s parks bylaw. 

The Toronto Police Service confirmed a total of 48 fines between March 17  and May 31, while the city confirmed a total of 65 by the end of June. Numbers for July are not yet available. 

The city’s chief spokesperson, Brad Ross, addressed the issue several weeks ago in response to a comment about the city’s alcohol consumption rules in a Reddit thread, saying the problem is public intoxication and crowding in public places where people should be physically distancing. 

“The issue, frankly, isn’t someone enjoying a cold beer or glass of wine — it’s the excessiveness … organized parties with cases of beer being brought onto the beach or into parks,” Ross wrote in the post. 

“The city has no interest in ticketing someone having a beer.” 

Anybody drinking or holding an open container of alcohol at a Toronto park or beach can be fined up to $300. (Ryan O’Connor/Twitter)

Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert with the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said being able to drink in public doesn’t necessarily result in people drinking in excess. 

“We don’t want to outlaw all behaviour just because taken to the extreme there can be problematic examples,” he said.

Schwartz said easing up on public drinking laws would be useful right now, during the short summer months of a lengthy global pandemic.

“Anything that is outdoors — as long as people aren’t shoulder to shoulder — we should be encouraging.”

Regulations across the country

In Ontario, the Alcohol and Gaming Regulation Act prohibits being drunk in a public place. However, with the exception of Quebec — where residents are allowed to drink in a park only if accompanied by a meal — it is illegal to drink outdoors in most parts of Canada. 

In April 2019, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government announced plans to loosen the province’s laws on booze. Premier Doug Ford said the province would leave it up to municipalities to regulate where residents could consume alcohol.

This week, Vancouver park commissioners voted in favour of allowing alcohol consumption in 22 parks around the city. British Columbia’s more relaxed approach is similar to Quebec’s. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Park board commissioners in Vancouver this week voted in favour of allowing alcohol consumption in 22 parks. Though actual implementation may take more time, B.C. is on its way to adapting a more relaxed approach to alcohol — similar to Quebec’s. 

When campaigning for re-election two years ago, Toronto Mayor John Tory also announced plans to reconsider the city’s current alcohol-consumption rules.

But as the pandemic goes on, the city says it will continue to enforce the rules against drinking outdoors when necessary.

“Enforcement officers in parks will provide education about liquor laws and, when necessary, issue tickets related to the consumption of alcohol,” a city spokesperson wrote in an email to CBC Toronto. “The city’s co-ordinated enforcement team remains focused on providing education about the physical-distancing bylaw and provincial orders.” 

While Chagla, the McMaster infectious disease expert, agrees that alcohol can cause people to relax or ignore physical-distancing rules, indoor environments makes those settings especially dangerous.

Indoor bars and eateries have proven to be risky environments for the novel coronavirus to spread, especially in British Columbia, where a sudden surge in cases led the province to announce stricter measures for restaurant operators. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“That transmission is happening not just because of the drinking; it’s all the things people do in bars. They get up close and personal, they interact with a bunch of different people,” he said.

“We go to bars for a social experience.”

Chagla warned that people would still need to be mindful of physical-distancing if public drinking laws were relaxed in their municipalities, and higher-risk individuals should still avoid those scenarios.

“It would be low-risk, but not zero-risk,” he said.

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Family grievances: New book on Prince Harry and Meghan offers royal dé​​​​​​​jà​​​​​​​ vu

Hello, royal watchers. This is your regular dose of royal news and analysis. Reading this online? Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox.


The names are different. So are the details.

But a sense of royal déjà vu has been spreading for the past few days, as the first excerpts of a highly anticipated book about Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have been published in the U.K.

The portions of Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Family by journalists Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie that have seen the light of day have not offered major revelations about the couple, who stepped back as senior royals earlier this year.

But they have offered more detail and fleshed out stories that have been reported over the past few years. And in doing so, they provide an uncanny parallel with the publication of another book 28 years ago, which focused on Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

For some royal observers, there’s a sense of history repeating itself.

“Harry and Meghan are airing their grievances about their family in public. This is exactly what Diana did,” biographer Penny Junor, author of Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son, said via email.

Much speculation about the nature of the relationship between Prince Harry and Meghan, and Harry’s elder brother, Prince William, and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, in the front row, followed their attendance at a church service in London on March 9. (Phil Harris/The Associated Press)

Publication of the excerpts in the Times and the Sunday Times has set off a flurry of commentary in the U.K. media.

“After finding their freedom at last, Harry and Meghan have never appeared more trapped,” read the headline on a story by associate editor Camilla Tominey in the Telegraph.

ITV’s royal editor, Chris Ship, wrote about the excerpts under the headline: “The Sussexes and the Royal Family: a relationship that was never going to work.”

But are there blockbuster revelations? Not in what we’ve seen, some observers say.

“Some flesh is put on the bones of a story that we know quite well, but despite the headlines there are no new properly sourced revelations in the book as serialised so far,” the BBC’s royal correspondent, Jonny Dymond, wrote on the BBC website.

“We knew that William and Harry’s relationship was badly damaged; Harry told ITN’s Tom Bradby that in the interview he gave in late 2019. We knew that Meghan felt abandoned by the palace; she went out of her way to make that point to Bradby in the same program.”

Reports quote a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan as saying they did not provide interviews for the book or contribute to it. 

But the level of detail it contains has given rise to questions of just where the information in the book, which will be published on Aug. 11, comes from. 

“The intimate nature of some details raises questions over who the sources were — and whether Harry and Meghan gave them their blessing before they revealed such closely guarded insights to the couple’s private lives,” the Daily Mail reported.

“Extraordinary personal details littered throughout Finding Freedom include particulars of the moment … Meghan confessed she wrote her estranged father Thomas Markle one final message while on FaceTime in a bathtub.” 

Rewind to 1992, and Diana denied having contributed directly to Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story, which rocked the House of Windsor and revealed details of the unhappy marriage between her and Prince Charles, along with her own suicide attempts and eating disorders. 

Shortly after Diana’s death in 1997, Morton revealed she had, through an intermediary, given him six taped interviews. 

Junor doesn’t see the current book doing as much harm to the monarchy as Morton’s did.

Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, during a Korean War commemorative service in November 1992, five months after publication of Andrew Morton’s book that revealed strains in their marriage. (Reuters)

“Harry is not likely to become King, so this is not as damaging as Andrew Morton’s book in 1992 was,” she said.

At that time, Diana was married to the heir to the throne and in line herself to become Queen.

“By denouncing her husband and his family, she damaged the future King and in many ways the Queen herself,” Junor said.

In this book, Junor said, Harry and Meghan “have emerged as victims of a system that couldn’t cope with their popularity.”

While we haven’t seen the whole book yet, no one other than Harry and Meghan “seems to come out of it well,” Junor said.

“The public do not need to feast on the misery of others. That is what happened in 1992 and what, to a lesser extent I suspect, is happening today.”

A private — but not a secret — wedding

Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi leave the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge after their wedding in Windsor, England, on July 17. (Benjamin Wheeler/Pool via Reuters)

When Princess Beatrice married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a small church near Windsor Castle, some reports suggested the ninth in line to the throne had enjoyed a “secret” wedding after the pandemic forced cancellation of plans for a larger ceremony in the chapel at St. James’s Palace in central London in late May.

And certainly there’s no sense that word of the nuptials on July 17 leaked out before the couple said their vows in front of a small gathering that included her grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

But those nuptials weren’t secret in the sense of royal weddings that no one would have known were coming or had taken place until they were revealed months later.

“It’s very important not to confuse the term ‘secret wedding’ and ‘private wedding,'” Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris said in an interview. 

“What Princess Beatrice did was have a private royal wedding.”

And there are royal precedents for that, often dictated by circumstances at the time (much like the COVID-19 pandemic dictated what happened for Beatrice).

In 1935, King George V’s third son, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester — an uncle of the current Queen — was set to marry Alice Montagu Douglas Scott in a large wedding at Westminster Abbey. But her father had died recently of cancer, and his father’s health was uncertain.

“So the wedding plans changed and Henry and Alice had their wedding in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace,” Harris said.

In 1862, Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Alice, married Prince Louis of Hesse in front of their immediate families in the dining room of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. 

The wedding came just months after the death of Victoria’s husband and Alice’s father, Prince Albert.

“It reflected the deep court mourning of that time and Alice wore a white dress for the wedding, but her whole trousseau was in black, reflecting that she had just lost her father,” Harris said.

For a secret wedding, she looks back to the 15th century.

“A secret royal wedding is closer to what King Edward IV had when he married Elizabeth Woodville, where the wedding was not announced until six months later,” Harris said.

The newlyweds stand with Beatrice’s grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, outside the Royal Chapel of All Saints. (Benjamin Wheeler/Pool via Reuters)

Beatrice married in considerably different circumstances.

“The public knew that Princess Beatrice was engaged, that a wedding was planned and that the wedding had been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic,” Harris said.

Pictures that have emerged of Beatrice and Edoardo’s wedding show only the newlyweds, or the newlyweds with her grandparents. 

There is no sign of her father, Prince Andrew, who has been the focus of renewed attention over his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein after the arrest of Esptein’s friend, Ghislaine Maxwell.

Headlines out of the wedding also focused on Beatrice’s attire. In a regal take on “something borrowed,” she wore a vintage dress loaned from the Queen, along with the tiara the Queen — as Princess Elizabeth — wore on her own wedding day in 1947.

Beatrice wore the same tiara as her grandmother did on her wedding day in 1947. (The Associated Press)

“Princess Beatrice’s wedding very much emphasizes Princess Beatrice as the Queen’s granddaughter,” Harris said. “It’s clear that the Queen wanted to make this a special occasion in spite of all the constraints that were imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Spry at 99

Those pictures from Beatrice’s wedding also drew attention for their glimpse of another member of the Royal Family who has not often been seen lately.

And observers couldn’t help noting that her grandfather, Prince Philip, was looking quite spry at 99.

Philip, who retired from official duties in 2017 and has had some health worries since then, was also front and centre at Windsor Castle a few days later. 

He was in the quadrangle of the castle, where he has been staying with the Queen during the pandemic, to take part in a physically distanced ceremony to pass a military role to his daughter-in-law, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. 

“Prince Philip looks five years younger than last Christmas and has regained his zest for life,” tweeted Phil Dampier, who has written a biography of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Royals in Canada

Queen Elizabeth and then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau attend a reception at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Aug. 1, 1973. (The Canadian Press)

Not once, but twice, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip landed in Canada in the summer of 1973.

They arrived in Ottawa on July 31 for a four-day official visit as the Canadian capital hosted the second Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

That visit came after an 11-day tour in late June and early July to take part in events marking the centennial of the RCMP, the centennial of Prince Edward Island’s entry into Confederation and an extended tour of Ontario.

For the Queen, who has placed a high priority on her role as head of the Commonwealth,  the Commonwealth meeting was significant. 

“The Queen is passionate about her role as the head of the Commonwealth, and being present at these meetings means a lot to her,” Harris said.

Getting to the meeting in Ottawa, however, was the apparent result of a bit of manoeuvring by the Commonwealth secretariat and the palace at a time when the British prime minister of the day — Edward Heath — wasn’t so keen on regular heads of government meetings.

In the end, according to author Philip Murphy in his book, Monarchy and the End of Empire, the palace accepted an invitation from the Canadian prime minister of the day — Pierre Trudeau — for the Queen to attend, with her accepting as the Queen of Canada.

Royally quotable

“I know what Twitter is but I wouldn’t go anywhere near it if you paid me, frankly.”

— Princess Anne, in an ITV documentary that aired this week, ahead of her 70th birthday on Aug. 15.

Royal reads

  1. Just as her elder brother Charles did when he turned 70, Anne guest edited an edition of Country Life magazine to mark that milestone birthday. In the current issue, she writes of how her parents instilled in her a lifelong love of nature and urges more care about waste and energy in the hope of a better future for the countryside.

  2. It was another virtual first for the Queen when she attended the unveiling of a new portrait remotely. [ITV]

  3. Arise Sir Tom Moore — Queen Elizabeth honoured a 100-year-old fundraising captain at Windsor Castle. [CBC]

  4. In a wide-ranging chat on a BBC Radio podcast, Prince William offered a novel way to ward off a schoolboy football opponent: get your protection officer to pose as a mock sniper. [Evening Standard]

  5. Another royal birthday, another set of photos taken by Mom, as pictures snapped by Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, are released to mark seven years since Prince George was born. [BBC]


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The Canada-U.S. border could be closed for months. Here’s what you need to know now

Gone are the days when Canadians and Americans could freely drive across their shared border for a quick shopping trip or to visit family and friends. 

Now, the Canada-U.S. land border that was once wide open is closed to non-essential travel, affecting the lives of many people on both sides. 

Here’s the latest on what you need to know about Canada-U.S. border rules and why our neighbours to the south may not be visiting for a while.

When will the Canada-U.S. border reopen?

It came as no surprise to many people when the federal government announced last month that the Canada-U.S. land border — which closed on March 21 to non-essential traffic — would remain shut until at least Aug. 21. 

Canadians can still fly to the U.S., but that rule isn’t reciprocal: Canada prohibits U.S. visitors from entering via all modes of transport.

Canada and the U.S. review their border closure agreement every 30 days. Several experts in different fields have told CBC News that they predict the border won’t reopen until sometime next year. 

The main reason: COVID-19 cases are still surging in several U.S. states.

“It doesn’t seem to be getting any better in the U.S.,” said U.S. Immigration lawyer Len Saunders, whose office sits close to the Canadian border in Blaine, Wash. He believes the border could stay closed for another six months. 

“There’s really no reason why the Canadian government, at this point, would want to open it up and subject Canadians to an increased rate of COVID infections.”

Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer in Blaine, Wash., predicts the Canada-U.S. border could stay shut for another six months. (Gabriel Osorio/CBC)

Many Canadians have also made it clear that they want the border to stay shut for now.

When Leger Marketing asked 1,500 Canadians last month if they thought the Canada-U.S. border should reopen at the end of July, 86 per cent of respondents said they were opposed to the idea. 

In early July, 29 members of the U.S. Congress sent a joint letter to U.S. Homeland Security and the Canadian government. In it, they asked that both countries start working on a phased reopening of the border.

One member of Congress posted the letter on Twitter and was bombarded with angry comments from Canadians demanding the border stay shut. Some even suggested that Canada build a wall. 

Given public opinion, economist Moshe Lander said it would be “political suicide” for Canadian politicians to contemplate reopening the border right now. 

“As long as Canadians don’t feel safe, then why force open that border when there’s no strong political logic to doing it?” said Lander, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal. 

He predicts a possible border reopening in middle to late 2021 — if there’s enough confidence at that point that the virus is under control. 

What about separated families?

The federal government recently loosened its travel restrictions to allow Americans to visit immediate family in Canada, including dependent children, spouses and common-law partners.

To qualify as common-law, couples must have lived together for at least one year and prove it with documentation showing a shared address.

Some separated couples who don’t meet the criteria have opted to tie the knot. 

Couples separated by a closed border can still meet — and marry — at a park at the Peace Arch border crossing between B.C. and Washington state. (Submitted by Len Saunders)

Lawyer Saunders said that at least two dozen of his clients — who are in cross-border relationships — have expedited their marriage plans so that they can reunite in Canada now. 

Canadians can fly to the U.S. to get married, or both partners can travel to the Peace Arch border crossing between B.C. and Washington state.

That border crossing includes a neutral zone — a shared Canada-U.S. park. The Canadian section of the park is closed. However, Canadians can still enter the U.S. section of the park for the day to visit with their American partner — or even get married. 

Saunders said that he has advised many inquiring cross-border couples that they can marry in the park, as long as they obtain a Washington state marriage licence and are wed by a Washington officiant. 

“It’s totally legal to get married on the American side,” Saunders said. “A lot of people are taking advantage of that.”

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said that when Canadians return from visiting the U.S. side of the park, they are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. It’s not known if people are actually complying.

Crackdown on Americans driving to Alaska

Americans are allowed to drive through Canada to Alaska for essential reasons, such as for work or to return home. However, they’re not to make unnecessary stops along the way. 

In June, Alberta RCMP issued 10 fines of $1,200 to U.S. residents headed to Alaska who stopped in Banff National Park to see the sights. 

On July 10, B.C. RCMP fined an American boat operator $1,000 for entering Canadian waters for a vacation. 

“It was clear the persons on this vessel had misstated their intention to travel to Alaska and had entered Canada for the purposes of tourism,” said the RCMP in a statement

This is the top part of the tag issued by Canada Border Services Agency that Americans driving through Canada to Alaska must hang from their car’s rear view mirror. (submitted by Canada Border Services agency)

To try to curb the problem, the CBSA introduced stricter rules on Friday for Americans driving to Alaska.

They must enter Canada through one of five designated border crossings and hang a CBSA-issued tag from their car’s rear view mirror that lays out the purpose and rules of their trip. 

Before exiting Canada for Alaska, drivers must check in once again with the CBSA. 

Even before the new rules took effect, it appears that Americans were getting the message. Alberta RCMP said no fines were issued to wayward U.S. drivers in July.

“It’s heartening,” said Alberta RCMP spokesperson Fraser Logan. “It’s just important that … you’re following the rules.”

WATCH | Why cross-border couples can still meet up at the Peace Arch border crossing: 

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RCMP says improper force allegations confirmed in just 1 per cent of cases

As police services everywhere cope with public pressure over their use of force policies, the RCMP is reporting that just one per cent of the more than 3,000 allegations it’s received about improper use of force over the past five years turned out to be founded.

“Out of the thousands of interactions that RCMP members have with the public across the country every single day, the RCMP has found that there were 36 instances of improper use of force over the past five years,” said RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin in an email to CBC News.

The national police force says that while there’s no set-in-stone definition of “improper force”, it generally refers to the application of force in a way that is unnecessary, inconsistent, too frequent or too harsh, or to the use of force for an excessive amount of time. Allegations involve inappropriate use of physical controls, intermediate weapons (non-firearm weapons such as batons and tasers), police service dogs and chemical munitions.

Harsha Walia, executive director of B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said that doesn’t mean Mounties aren’t using excessive force.

She called the one per cent figure “incredibly low,” adding she doesn’t think “it’s an accurate reflection about police use of force.”

While Canadians who believe they’ve been mistreated by an RCMP officer can lodge complaints with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, an outside watchdog body, Walia points out that local RCMP detachments are still responsible for re-opening such files — something she said casts doubt on the independence of the review process.

“That complaint is automatically redirected to the RCMP to investigate, so the first step of an investigation into the RCMP is actually the RCMP investigating that complaint,” she said.

“Which, of course, is absolutely inadequate and inappropriate … that data doesn’t really reveal anything. If anything, it just shows how police accountability is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Erick Laming is a PhD candidate in criminology at the University of Toronto whose research looks at police use of force and its impact on Indigenous and Black communities. He said the number of legitimate reported instances of excessive force is probably low in part because people are either afraid to lodge a complaint or don’t trust the system.

“If you’re an Indigenous person up north, you put a complaint in and it is legitimate and you really feel that it’s legitimate, but it’s the few officers up there doing the investigation. It’s really difficult to have that trust, ” said Laming.

“We need these oversight agencies to have that teeth and go further.”

Definition of excessive force subjective 

The new numbers come after a series of headline-grabbing allegations that have called into question the RCMP’s use of force.

The RCMP is under pressure to explain why an officer shot and killed Rodney Levi, a member of the Metepenagiag First Nation in New Brunswick, in June. His death is now under review by an outside police watchdog agency. 

And a review has been launched of the controversial arrest of Chief Allan Adam of the Athabascan Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta. Chief Adam alleged that he was beaten by RCMP officers and his wife was manhandled back in March when police stopped him for an expired licence plate in Fort McMurray.

A photo of the injuries sustained by Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam as shown in an affadavit filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta on June 11, 2020. (Court exhibit)

Greg Brown, a professor at Carleton University and officer with the Ottawa Police Service, said that many Canadians don’t understand what police officers are legally permitted to do in the course of their jobs.

“There’s a bit of a disconnect in the public around what officers are legally entitled to do in terms of use of force. So quite often people have a misunderstanding, that a legitimate police use of force is ‘police brutality,'” he said.

“Just because the outcome results in somebody being injured, or blood, or some kind of outcome that doesn’t look particularly pleasant to the public audience, that doesn’t mean that it’s an illegal or inappropriate use of force by the officer. “

Perceptions of police use of force are subjective, said Brown. Officers are trained on what’s called a use-of-force continuum, which is meant to give them options based on how threatening a situation is.

“Our law is a fluid sort of construct and so it is up to interpretation,” said Brown, who also worked as a police trainer.

“Often these are situations where there’s controversy, where the use of force is sort of at the margins.”

Calls for more training

In cases where a public complaint is supported, the RCMP officer involved “is provided guidance to improve their knowledge, skills and abilities as a police officer,” said Fortin.

The response to a founded complaint can include an apology by the officer involved or a superior officer, a senior member offering the officer operational guidance, additional training, procedural or policy changes or attempts to resolve the issue through discussions with complainants.

Brown said police training used to be much more physical — “I’ve had people punch me and break my nose,” he said. He said he wants to see much more robust use-of-force training in police services.

“If somebody has never been involved in a use-of-force scenario, and suddenly they’re a police officer and they’re engaged with a very violent person who’s trying to cause them harm, and the person is punching them or kicking them or using a weapon, we want to know that that officer has the skill set to address that issue professionally, ” he said.

“The kind of training that officers have been receiving over the years has been watered down … Expecting officers to use force perfectly 100 per cent of the time when they receive minimal training — for example, eight hours once a year — is very unrealistic.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has assigned Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to look into “modernizing policing structures and updating standards regarding the use of force” over the summer months.

“Having a conversation, I think, at this juncture — especially with sort of the topical nature of policing these days — is healthy in any democracy,” said Brown.

“Police take their marching orders from the legislation, from the law. There are changes available to be made to police use-of-force models and how police behave in society. The police reflect what society wants.”

A push to strengthen the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission

Both Walia and Laming suggested bolstering the legislation around the CRCC so it can make binding decisions.

“The complainant has really no recourse,” said Laming.

“There’s no binding decision that the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission can do or give to the RCMP. It’s almost like a symbolic body right now because they don’t have those teeth that you would want, that other agencies across Canada have.”

The RCMP’s improper force numbers formed part of its response to comments made by the CRCC last week.

Michelaine Lahaie, chair of the CRCC, questioned what she sees as a “general pattern of concern” about Mounties’ behaviour during wellness checks and their “command and control” training.

“The commission’s reports have repeatedly found that this ‘command and control’ approach has led to the RCMP’s unreasonable use of force in apprehending persons in crisis,” she said.

Fortin said the RCMP supports a collaborative approach when dealing with individuals experiencing symptoms of distress or addictions — but stressed that funding for mental health services is largely a provincial issue.

“Some communities across Canada have mobile mental health support and outreach services, typically in the form of a psychiatric nurse,” she said.

“Mobile mental health resources are not available in all jurisdictions, leaving RCMP members to deal with these calls otherwise unsupported in the vast majority of cases.'”

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Countries around the world are scrambling to find a COVID-19 vaccine, but access remains uncertain

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world hard, and countries around the globe are anxious to get their hands on a vaccine as soon as possible in the hopes that it will bring a return to normalcy

Those vaccines are expected to be in short supply when they first hit the market, meaning not everyone will have access initially. Within countries, some groups will be prioritized for vaccination.

But what about globally? Which countries will get the vaccines first?

Many wealthier nations are already making bets on vaccines still in relatively early stages of development, with no guarantee that they will ever perform well enough to gain approval or protect their populations.

That has many concerned about “vaccine nationalism,” where countries look out for their own interests at the expense of others.

Here’s a closer look at what wealthier countries are doing to ensure supplies for their own citizens, how that might affect other countries, how Canada might fare and what efforts are being made to distribute a vaccine more fairly.

What can countries do to obtain a vaccine first?

There are a few different ways wealthier countries can try to ensure their own supplies:

  • Provide funding for the development and manufacture of their own candidates to help speed it up.
  • Manufacture a vaccine within their own country and prevent it from being exported.
  • Make deals to reserve or preorder large numbers of doses.

What impact does that have on other countries?

In previous pandemics, such as an H1N1 outbreak in 2009, wealthier nations were able to buy up the first batches, leaving no supply for lower-income countries.

And even some richer countries, including Canada, weren’t always first in line if they didn’t have their own manufacturing facilities. During the swine flu outbreak in 1976, for example, the U.S. decided to vaccinate its entire population before it would allow vaccine producers to export their products to Canada.

What are countries doing to ensure their own supply?

The U.S. has a program called Operation Warp Speed, which aims to produce a vaccine faster than anyone else. President Donald Trump has said he hoped it would be available before the end of the year.

The program has already announced that it’s providing more than $6 billion US to pay for development, manufacturing and preorders or reservations for hundreds of millions of doses of promising vaccine candidates from U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Merck, along with U.K.-based AstraZeneca.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, holds up a model of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on July 2 in Washington on the plan to research, manufacture and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, known as Operation Warp Speed. (Saul Loeb/Pool via The Associated Press)

Similarly, the European Commission has a plan to use an emergency fund worth €2.4 billion (almost $3.7 billion Cdn) to buy up to six vaccines in advance for 450 million people.

Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands have also signed a deal with AstraZeneca for over 300 million doses of its vaccine, which they say all EU members can participate in. 

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has preordered nearly 200 million doses from AstraZeneca, BioNTech/Pfizer  and France-based Valneva.

There are concerns such preorders could reduce the initial availability of vaccines in the rest of the world, which has happened in previous pandemics  

The European Commission has specifically said it will not buy vaccines produced exclusively in the U.S. over concerns that might delay supplies to Europe.

What is Canada doing to ensure its own supply?

The federal government has created a $600 million fund to support vaccine clinical trials and manufacturing in Canada.

It is also “closely monitoring vaccine development efforts — domestically and internationally — and will work quickly to negotiate advanced purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturer(s) to secure supply for all Canadians as soon as it is feasible,” Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada, told CBC News in an email.

However, as of July 30, it hadn’t yet announced any such agreements.

The government has also announced it is ordering enough equipment, such as syringes, alcohol swabs and bandages, to give at least two doses of a vaccine to every Canadian when one becomes available.

Still, experts warn that Canada currently doesn’t have much manufacturing capacity for vaccines, even those developed in this country — many of which would be manufactured elsewhere and some of which would likely be licensed to foreign companies for manufacturing. 

Vials used by pharmacists to prepare syringes are used on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial of the potential vaccine for COVID-19 in March. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

Quebec City-based Medicago is the first Canadian vaccine candidate to begin clinical trials. But CEO Bruce Clark has said that his company’s main manufacturing plant is in the U.S., meaning there’s no guarantee that a supply would reach Canada in a timely manner.

“‘Guarantee’ is a strong word,” Clark told The Canadian Press in July. “Strange things happen to borders in the context of a pandemic.”

Dr. Noni MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, said Canada is a very small market.

“And we will not have a vaccine if the manufacturer doesn’t apply for approval,” said MacDonald, who has done research on ethical issues surrounding vaccines.

In the past, some manufacturers have not prioritized Canada, she said. For example, the manufacturer of the chicken pox vaccine didn’t apply for approval in Canada until it had already been available in the U.S. for five years.

Why should all countries have access to a vaccine?

Because it’s a global pandemic and our world is interconnected, outbreaks in any country have the potential to travel to other countries and cause outbreaks there, MacDonald said. “For you to be safe … your country needs to be safe and all other countries need to be safe.”

That’s even the case if the entire population is vaccinated, she said, as a given vaccine usually doesn’t work for everyone. 

Due to manufacturing and distribution constraints, when a vaccine first becomes available, there isn’t expected to be enough of it to vaccinate the entire populations of even countries wealthy and lucky enough to have preordered it. That means most of their populations could remain at risk for a long time if the pandemic isn’t under control in other parts of the world.

Outbreaks also tend to be worse and harder to control in poorer countries, posing a higher risk to both their own populations and the world.

A volunteer receives an injection of a COVID-19 test vaccine, developed at Oxford University in Britain, at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. (Siphiwe Sibeko/The Associated Press)

Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor emeritus at York University in Toronto who has studied pharmaceutical policy, said many wealthier countries such as Canada are able to do a pretty good job of controlling the virus without a vaccine through such measures as physical distancing, frequent handwashing, mask wearing and temporarily shutting down certain businesses and services. 

Meanwhile, lower-income countries where many people live in crowded conditions — some of them with limited access to things like clean water and soap — are struggling with both controlling the epidemic and treating those who have fallen ill.

“I think you need to look at where the outbreak is still the greatest threat to public health and also where the medical care resources are the lowest,” Lexchin said.

“You can make the case that however much we need a vaccine in Canada, there they need it much more than we do.”

What about global efforts to ensure a fair distribution?

There are some, but perhaps the biggest is the COVAX Facility, an initiative of the World Health Organization; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is a public-private partnership founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that vaccinates children against deadly diseases; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which aims to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics.

COVAX is pooling money from dozens of countries to invest in vaccine candidates around the world, with a goal of delivering two billion vaccine doses globally by 2021. 

The program is designed to connect developing and developed nations, with all partners getting enough doses of a successful vaccine for 20 per cent of their populations, initially prioritizing health-care workers. So far, it’s signed on 75 higher-income countries — including Canada but not the U.S. — to partner with 90 lower-income countries that together represent more than 60 per cent of the world’s population. It’s also joining forces with vaccine manufacturers.

Health workers screen residents for COVID-19 symptoms at the Deonar slum in Mumbai, India, on July 11. In just three weeks, India went from being the world’s sixth worst-affected country to the third, according to a tally of coronavirus cases by Johns Hopkins University. (Rajanish Kakade/The Associated Press)

The program includes investment in production facilities and incentives to scale up through preorders.

Because most vaccine candidates are not expected to succeed and make it to market, COVAX is designed to get higher-income countries to participate by improving the chance that they’ll invest in a successful vaccine.

“This is an initial opportunity for a wealthy country to kind of hedge their bets and protect their own interests and also contribute to a global effort to secure vaccine for people living in countries where the resources are not there to do it on their own,” said Prof. Ruth Faden, founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore.

“It’s very smart.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken in favour of and co-authored an op-ed article with leaders of other countries calling for equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s ready. Canada has already pledged $850 million to Global Coronavirus Response and $120 million toward the broader initiative that COVAX is part of, called the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, says it has raised $600 million US from higher-income countries and the private sector to provide an incentive for manufacturers to make enough vaccine to ensure access for developing countries.

Will efforts for a fair distribution of vaccines work?

York University’s Lexchin said it’s not clear if vaccines will be fairly distributed. He noted in an article in The Conversation that even for COVAX, rich countries will get the vaccine before poorer countries. And all countries will only be able to vaccinate their highest-priority groups, including health-care workers — just 20 per cent of the population through the program, limiting its influence.

At least one humanitarian group has expressed concern that the program doesn’t stop rich countries from buying up all the supply in advance, limiting what can be distributed to the rest of the world.

Lexchin said in an interview that middle-income countries such as Brazil and Mexico sometimes fall through the cracks, as they’re not poor enough to take advantage of lower prices offered by manufacturers, who set the prices.

He said he thinks leaders, including Canada’s, need to step up as well, by requiring that vaccines and treatments be made available at affordable prices to low- and middle-income countries if government funding was received for their development.

Still, MacDonald of Dalhousie University is cautiously optimistic.

“We’re in better shape to be more equitable about a COVID-19 vaccine globally than we were for the influenza pandemic,” she said.

“Do I think we’re going to get it right? … I hope we’ll get it more right.”

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Isaias weakens but expected to regain hurricane strength as it nears virus-weary Florida

Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and weakened to a tropical storm as it churned toward the Florida coast, where it still threatened to complicate efforts to contain the coronavirus in a hot spot.

The storm, which is expected to regain hurricane strength as it nears Florida, is piling another burden on communities already hit hard by other storms and sickness.

Florida authorities closed beaches, parks and virus testing sites. Though officials do not expect to have to evacuate residents, they wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary while safely physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The most important thing we want people to do now is remain vigilant,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was slammed by last year’s Hurricane Dorian, starting Saturday evening. Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas cleared people out of Abaco island who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people.

The centre of the storm is forecast to approach the southeast coast of Florida early Sunday morning and then travel along the state’s east coast throughout the day. (NOAA via The Associated Press)

Isaias’s maximum sustained winds dipped steadily Saturday and were near 110 km/h around 11 p.m. ET, hours after the U.S. National Hurricane Center downgraded its status. It said Isaias would regain hurricane strengthen by early Sunday.

By Saturday night, the storm was about 130 kilometres southeast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It was moving northwest at 15 km/h and expected to be near Florida’s southeast coast early Sunday, then tack near or along the state’s Atlantic coast during the day.

Isaias is expected to remain a hurricane through Monday, then slow weaken on its climb up the Atlantic seaboard. It’s expected to move offshore of the coast of Georgia en route toward the mid-Atlantic states. Heavy rain, flooding and high winds could batter much of the East Coast during the week.

Despite the approaching storm, NASA says the return of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX capsule is still on track for Sunday afternoon. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing to make the first splashdown return in 45 years after two months docked at the International Space Station. They are aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida Panhandle, and flight controllers are keeping close watch on the storm.

Caribbean slammed

The storm has already been destructive in the Caribbean: On Thursday, while still a tropical storm, Isaias uprooted trees, destroyed crops and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

One man died in the Dominican Republic, where more than 5,000 people were evacuated, hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed and more than 130 communities were cut off by floodwaters.

In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters that swept away one woman, whose body was recovered on Saturday.

WATCH | Puerto Rico hit by Isaias:

Widespread damage reported as storm gains hurricane strength on its way to U.S. East Coast. 1:01

Concerns about the coronavirus and the vulnerability of people who are still recovering from Dorian were adding to worries about the Category 1 storm. 

Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis relaxed a coronavirus lockdown as a result of the storm but imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. He said supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and hardware stores would be open as long as weather permitted.

“The centre of COVID-19 now is in Grand Bahama,” the island’s minister, Sen. Kwasi Thompson, told government-run ZNS Bahamas. “No one wanted to see a situation where we are now facing a hurricane.”

The Bahamas has reported more than 570 confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 14 deaths. It recently barred travellers from the U.S. following a surge in cases after it reopened to international tourism.

Paula Miller, Mercy Corps director for the Bahamas, told The Associated Press that people on the island were still standing in line for gas on Saturday ahead of the storm.

The area was still recovering from Dorian, complicating preparations for this one.

“People are doing the best they can to prepare, but a lot of businesses still have not fully repaired their roofs or their structures,” Miller said. “Even a lower-level storm could really set them back.”

Storm complicates Florida’s COVID-19 efforts

As it moves now toward the southeast coast of Florida, a hurricane warning is in effect from Boca Raton to the Volusia-Flagler county line, which lies about 240 kilometres north. A hurricane watch was in effect from Hallendale Beach to south of Boca Raton. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the area, and a watch means they are possible.

Florida has been a coronavirus hot spot in the United States in recent weeks, and the storm is upending some efforts to control the virus. State-run testing sites are closing in areas where the storm might hit because the sites are outdoor tents, which could topple in high winds.

DeSantis, the governor, said Saturday that 12 counties have adopted states of emergency, although no immediate evacuation orders have been given. He also said that hospitals are not being evacuated of coronavirus or other patients.

The Republican governor told a morning news conference that the state is prepared with stockpiles of personal protective equipment, generators, bottled water and meals ready to be distributed.

The pandemic forced officials to wrestle with physical-distancing rules at the same time as disaster response.

For example, in Marion County, Fla., officials say people would be provided facial coverings if they have to go to shelters. The facilities will have sanitizers and personal protective equipment if needed, although they would prefer people bring their own PPE.

Cars drive past a sign displaying a hurricane warning in Boynton Beach, Fla., on Saturday. (Wilfredo Lee/The Associated Press)

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said each person in a shelter needed to have 40 square feet, and no more cafeteria-style dining would be allowed. Any evacuees infected with the novel coronavirus would be isolated in classrooms separate them from the general population, Gimenez said.

Kevin Shelton, the owner of Causeway Mowers in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., said his store has been packed since Friday. People streamed in to buy generators, chainsaws and other provisions. On Saturday morning, Shelton and his wife served at least 25 customers an hour, which is double the business they’d normally do on a weekend.

“They’re not saying much about COVID, they’re just making sure they have the proper supplies,” he said. “We’ve been in the area almost 50 years. We keep an eye on every storm. Every time we have a storm, we take it seriously. It could shift in this direction at any moment.”

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Canadiens stun Penguins with OT win in NHL qualifier opener

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien said back in the spring his young, largely inexperienced roster had a real opportunity to grow after being given a second life by the NHL’s restart.

They did that, and a whole lot more, Saturday night — with a big helping hand from a couple veterans.

Jeff Petry scored at 13:57 of overtime, Carey Price made 39 saves, and underdog Montreal stunned the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 to open the best-of-five qualifying round series as the league raised the curtain on the resumption to its pandemic-halted season.

Petry, who along with Price are two of the Canadiens’ oldest players at 32, picked up a loose puck in the right face-off circle, took an extra stride, and ripped a shot through Matt Murray before being mobbed by teammates in an empty Scotiabank Arena.

WATCH | Petry scores OT winner:

Jeff Petry scored 13:57 into overtime to give the Montreal Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of their best-of-five series. 1:22

“We’re playing an experienced team,” Julien said. “They’ve won Stanley Cups, they know how to win, and we have what we have. The only chance we have is that we play on our toes and not on our heels.”

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki — 19 and 20 years old, respectively — had the goals in regulation for Montreal, the Eastern Conference’s No. 12 seed in the league’s 24-team format.

“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Suzuki said. “A lot of people didn’t see us as contenders. We want to show them we can compete with anyone.

“This is a good first step.”

A step that wouldn’t have been possible without Price, who was lights out early as the Penguins came in waves.

“He made some really big saves,” Petry said. “He’s calm and collected back there, especially when a team is in on the forecheck and controlling the play.”

Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust replied for Pittsburgh, the No. 5 seed in the East, which will look to rebound in Monday’s Game 2 after finishing 1 for 7 on the power play, including coming up empty on a long 5-on-3 in the third.

“We’ve just got to heed the lessons,” Rust said. “We did some really good things.”

Murray stopped 32 shots as the league returned following a 142-day absence after COVID-19 ground the sport — and much of society — to a halt some 4 1/2 months ago.

Jonathan Drouin had a chance to win it for Montreal earlier in overtime on a penalty shot, but the puck rolled off the end of his stick and dribbled wide.

Tied 2-2 through 40 minutes, Montreal killed off that Pittsburgh two-man advantage for 1:32 early in the third period despite some sustained pressure.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo previews Penguins vs. Canadiens:

Can Carey Price help the Habs pull off a huge upset over the Penguins? Rob Pizzo breaks down their chances.  1:17

Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary had a golden opportunity to put his team ahead with 3:03 left in regulation, but the winger missed the net on a penalty shot after Crosby hit the post. Montreal then came within a whisker at the other end, but a deflected point shot rang off iron behind Murray and stayed out.

Saturday marked the first time an NHL post-season game has featured two penalty shots since March 29, 1923.

The Canadiens carried a 1-0 lead after the first thanks to Price’s stellar performance, and doubled that advantage at 6:53 of the second when Suzuki stole the puck from Brian Dumoulin at the Montreal blue line and raced in on a 2-on-1 before ripping a shot upstairs on Murray.

The battle-tested Penguins, who still have the core of their Cup-winning rosters from 2016 and 2017, got that one back on a delayed penalty at 9:55 when Crosby banked a shot in off Price. Then with Drouin off in the box, Rust poked a shot home from the lip of the crease 2:39 later to bring Pittsburgh back level at 2-2.

Price ‘allowed us to stay in the game’

The Penguins came out firing, but Price shut the door at every turn, including two pad stops on Evgeni Malkin from the slot as the Canadiens trailed 10-1 on the shot clock less than six minutes into the first.

“Carey was huge throughout that whole first period and gave us a chance,” Julien said. “He made some big saves throughout the whole game, but the first period is where he allowed us to stay in the game.”

Coming off a tough sophomore season where he was demoted to the minors and suffered a spleen injury, Kotkaniemi provided Montreal an unlikely counterpunch when a point shot went in off the former No. 3 pick at 11:27.

Tomas Tatar nearly made it 2-0 later in the period with a pair of chances on a power play, but the winger failed to find the range as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 18-6 through 20 minutes.

The Canadiens were playing out the string — 15 points back of the Penguins — and looking to next season after dealing some key veterans prior to the trade deadline when the novel coronavirus forced the NHL to suspend its schedule March 12.

Sitting a pedestrian 24th in the standings at the time, Montreal was handed a lifeline when the league decided on a 24-team format.

And while the Canadiens have a second chance to compete for the Cup, a significant section of the fan base is hoping they lose to the heavily-favoured Penguins and then win the NHL’s second draft lottery for the right to pick Quebec-born junior star Alexis Lafreniere at No. 1.

Montreal and Pittsburgh squared off in the third game of the day at Scotiabank Arena, which could have been mistaken for a meat locker as the league looks to protect the ice surface from the summer heat, after the Carolina Hurricanes beat the New York Rangers 3-2, and the New York Islanders downed the Florida Panthers 2-1.

“The guys bought in,” Petry said. “We’ve got focus on enjoying this one, but knowing the next game is the biggest one.”

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SpaceX capsule leaves ISS as U.S. astronauts aim for splashdown off Florida coast

The first astronauts launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company departed the International Space Station on Saturday night for the final and most important part of their test flight: returning to Earth with a rare splashdown.

NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken bid farewell to the three men left behind as their SpaceX Dragon capsule undocked and headed toward a Sunday afternoon descent by parachute into the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite tropical storm Isaias’s surge toward Florida’s Atlantic shore, NASA said the weather looked favourable off the coast of Pensacola on the extreme opposite side of the state.

It will be the first splashdown for astronauts in 45 years. The last time was following the joint U.S.-Soviet mission in 1975 known as Apollo-Soyuz.

Space station commander Chris Cassidy rang the ship’s bell as Dragon pulled away, 430 kilometres above Johannesburg, South Africa. Within a few minutes, all that could be seen of the capsule was a pair of flashing lights against the black void of space.

“It’s been a great two months, and we appreciate all you’ve done as a crew to help us prove out Dragon on its maiden flight,” Hurley radioed to the space station.

“Safe travels,” Cassidy replied, “and have a successful landing.”

The astronauts’ homecoming will cap a mission that ended a prolonged launch drought in the U.S., which has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the end of the shuttle era.

SpaceX 1st private company to send people into orbit

In launching Americans Hurley and Behnken from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on May 30, SpaceX became the first private company to send people into orbit. Now SpaceX is on the verge of becoming the first company to bring people back from orbit.

“The hardest part was getting us launched, but the most important is bringing us home,” Behnken said several hours before strapping into the Dragon.

A successful splashdown, Behnken said, will bring U.S.-crew launching capability “full circle.”

Astronauts Bob Behnken, front left, and Doug Hurley, front right, are expected to splash down in the Atlantic off Florida on Sunday. (NASA/The Associated Press)

At a farewell ceremony earlier in the day, Cassidy, who will remain on board with two Russians until October, presented Hurley with the small U.S. flag left behind by the previous astronauts to launch to the space station from U.S. soil. Hurley was the pilot of that final shuttle mission in July 2011.

The flag — which also flew on the first shuttle flight in 1981 — became a prize for the company that launched astronauts first.

SpaceX easily beat Boeing, which isn’t expected to launch its first crew until next year and will land in the U.S. Southwest. The flag has one more flight after this one: to the moon on NASA’s Artemis program in the next few years.

“We’re a little sad to see them go,” Cassidy said, “but very excited for what it means to our international space program to add this capability” of commercial crew capsules. The next SpaceX crew flight is targeted for the end of September.

Hurley and Behnken also are bringing back a sparkly blue and purple dinosaur named Tremor. Their young sons chose the toy to accompany their fathers on the historic mission.

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