The latest:

  • U.S. CDC asks states to prepare to distribute potential coronavirus vaccine to high-risk groups as soon as late October.
  • Trudeau says CERB payments delayed due to ‘hiccups’ caused by program extension.
  • Ottawa, Manitoba announce $400,000 for Western Canada’s first personal protective equipment (PPE) testing facility.
  • South African health-care workers protest working conditions, allege corruption in PPE purchase.
  • Thailand reports its first local transmission in more than 100 days.
  • South Korea vows to double its critical-care hospital beds as COVID-19 resurgence strains system.
  • Quebec City karaoke night outbreak now linked to 10 secondary cases, including three in schools.
  • India reports record daily jump of 83,883 coronavirus infections, taking its tally to 3.85 million.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked state public health officials to prepare to distribute a potential coronavirus vaccine to high-risk groups as soon as late October, according to documents published by the agency.

The timing has taken on political importance as U.S. President Donald Trump seeks re-election on Nov. 3, after committing billions of federal dollars to develop vaccines for COVID-19, which has killed more than 186,000 people in the United States.

Pfizer Inc. said on Thursday it should know by the end of October whether a COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with German partner BioNTech SE is safe and effective.

The U.S. drugmaker said it will seek approval immediately if trial results are positive. It has already manufactured hundreds of thousands of doses.

WATCH | Dr. Susy Hota on steroid treatments, vaccines and sex during COVID-19: 

Vaccines must be proven to be both safe and effective before they are rolled out, says infection control specialist Dr. Susy Hota. 7:10

Top U.S. infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said on Thursday having a vaccine ready by the end of October is possible, but he was not counting on it.

“These are all guesstimates,” Fauci told CNN, when asked about Pfizer’s comments, adding that most experts project a vaccine will be ready by November or December. “It is conceivable that you can have it by October, though I don’t think that that’s likely.”

The CDC “provided states with certain planning assumptions as they work on state specific plans for vaccine distribution, including possibly having limited quantities of vaccines in October and November,” an agency spokesperson told Reuters.

The New York Times had earlier reported that the CDC had contacted officials in all 50 states and five large cities with vaccine planning information.

The documents put online by the New York Times showed the CDC is preparing for one or two vaccines for COVID-19 to be available in limited quantities as soon as late October.

The vaccines would be made available free of cost first to high-risk groups including health-care workers, national security personnel, and nursing home residents and staff, the agency said in the documents.

Regulators around the world have repeatedly insisted that development speed will not compromise vaccine safety, as quicker results would stem from conducting parallel trials that are usually done in sequence. Such reassurances have not convinced everyone that political pressure will not play a role.

Fauci told CNN he is confident the Food and Drug Administration and independent advisory panels of experts will all review data on vaccine candidates to make sure they are safe and effective.

WATCH | Inside the process to fast-track a COVID-19 vaccine: 

Human challenge trials could make finding a COVID-19 vaccine faster, but the controversial approach involves exposing volunteers to the virus to see if a potential vaccine works. The National’s Andrew Chang finds out more about this process and the people volunteering to be test subjects. 9:01

Meanwhile, the number of laid-off Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to a still-elevated 881,000 last week, evidence that the pandemic continues to force many businesses to slash jobs.

The latest figures, released Thursday by the Labour Department, suggest that nearly six months after the eruption of the coronavirus, the economy is still struggling to sustain a recovery and rebuild a job market that was devastated by the recession. In the previous week, more than one million had sought jobless aid.

All told, the government said that 13.3 million people are continuing to receive traditional jobless benefits, up from 1.7 million a year ago. The economy has recovered 9.3 million, or only 42 per cent, of the jobs that were lost in March and April.


What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 1:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 130,242 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 115,269 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,176.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is blaming processing “hiccups” for the fact that many Canadians are reporting delays in receiving their Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) payments.

Many people who rely on the $2,000 monthly benefit to cover food, rent and bills amid the pandemic are expressing anxiety and frustration on social media over being forced to wait longer to see the money deposited in their accounts.

Many also have said they haven’t been able to get clear answers from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) about the delays.

Some Canadians have expressed anxiety and frustration on social media over being forced to wait longer to see their Canada emergency response benefit payments deposited in their accounts. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau was asked for an explanation during an interview Thursday with VOCM News in St. John’s.

“We’re working through some of the challenges because there was an extension. There might be a couple little hiccups, but we have said from the beginning we’d be there for Canadians and we will continue to be there for them,” he said.

Many CERB claimants applied for the monthly benefit Monday and were expecting the deposit within one or two days, as has been the delivery pattern in past months. The CRA did not offer an explanation for the slower pace of payments but said the money is on the way.

In Quebec, a karaoke night at a bar has been linked to a growing number of cases of COVID-19, including several at local schools, and there are reports the bar’s customers flouted isolation orders while waiting for their test results.

Public health officials in Quebec City said Wednesday they have traced 10 secondary cases of COVID-19 back to Bar Kirouac, on top of the original 40 linked to a karaoke night there on Aug. 23.

“We’re pretty sure that three positive cases, namely children, got the virus from somebody who was celebrating something at this bar,” said Dr. Jacques Girard, who heads the Quebec City public health authority.

WATCH | Quebec City COVID-19 outbreak linked to karaoke night:

A COVID-19 outbreak linked to a karaoke night at a Quebec City bar is spreading through the community because some customers chose not to follow the rules. 2:01

There are six schools in the Quebec City region that have reported cases of coronavirus, three of which are connected to Bar Kirouac, he said.

The owners of La Gamelle, another Quebec City bar that offers karaoke nights, said they have temporarily closed their establishment after learning they served two customers from Bar Kirouac who should have been in self-isolation on Saturday and Sunday.

Those two customers visited La Gamelle after learning they may have been infected at Bar Kirouac and while they were waiting for their test results — which ultimately came back positive.

The developments come as public health authorities in Quebec City deal with a recent spike in coronavirus cases. On Wednesday, Quebec’s health ministry reported 23 new cases in Quebec City — down from Tuesday’s increase of 31, but still considerably higher than the relative trickle of new cases over the past two months.


Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 26.1 million. More than 864,000 people have died while 17.3 million have recovered.

South African health-care workers on Thursday protested against poor working conditions and urged the government to end corruption in the purchase of COVID-19 PPE.

The protesters gathered in Pretoria and Cape Town, charging that the lives of health-care workers are endangered as some health facilities have inadequate supplies of protective equipment like surgical masks.

A member of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union holds up a placard during a day of mass action over working conditions for health-care workers during the pandemic in Pretoria, South Africa, on Thursday. (Phill Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images)

The union leading the demonstrations, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, has threatened that its 200,000 public workers will go on strike on Sept. 10 if their issues are not addressed.

Although the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 has decreased, South Africa is still reporting more than 2,000 new cases per day. The country has recorded 630,595 positive cases of COVID-19, the highest in Africa, and the sixth-highest in the world.

South Korea, scrambling to control a second wave of COVID-19, vowed on Thursday to double its critical-care hospital beds amid a severe shortage, highlighting the strain of the pandemic on even well-equipped countries.

The spike in serious cases, as older people make up an increasing proportion of patients within a broader resurgence, marks a sharp turn for a country that was seen as successful in crushing one of the early outbreaks of the novel coronavirus outside China.

District council members wear masks as they fill sand bags to prepare for Typhoon Maysak at Gwangalli beach in Busan on Wednesday. South Korea was bracing for the storm at the same time that it is scrambling to control a second wave of COVID-19. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Fewer than 10 intensive-care beds were available as of Tuesday in the greater Seoul area, a metropolis of 26 million people, health authorities said. Officials do not give daily numbers, which can fluctuate widely.

The Health Ministry said it will spend 100 billion won ($110 million Cdn) to acquire 500 beds for severely ill patients nationwide by the middle of next year, aiming to secure at least 110 by the end of the month.

India reported another record daily jump of 83,883 coronavirus infections on Thursday, taking its tally to 3.85 million, just 100,000 behind Brazil, the world’s second-most-affected nation, health ministry data showed.

A Delhi Metro Rail Corporation employee sanitizes a coach at Rajeev Chowk metro station in New Delhi on Thursday, as the Delhi Metro network prepares to partially resume services after more than five months of shut down due to the pandemic. (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

Asia’s worst-hit country has been posting the world’s largest daily caseload every day for almost a month, although deaths remain relatively low. The ministry said 1,043 people died from COVID-19, taking the toll to 67,376.

A prison inmate in Thailand has tested positive for the coronavirus in the country’s first confirmed locally transmitted case in 100 days, health officials said Thursday.

They identified the inmate as a 37-year-old man arrested on drug charges who was brought to prison in Bangkok on Aug. 26 and tested positive Wednesday at the prison’s health centre.

A man wearing a mask to protect against the spread of coronavirus looks at the food selection of a street vendor in Bangkok, Thailand, on Thursday. (Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images)

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday had congratulated the nation for having achieved 100 days without any confirmed local cases of the coronavirus.

Dr. Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Health Ministry’s Disease Control Department, stressed that the infected man had been kept in a small group of quarantined inmates in a standard procedure to limit the possible spread of the virus.

In Australia, a pregnant woman said Thursday she didn’t know she had broken any law when she was handcuffed by police in front of her children in her home and led away in her pajamas for allegedly inciting activists to demonstrate against pandemic lockdown.

Zoe Buhler’s partner helped her livestream the arrest on Wednesday at her home where she lives with two children, aged three and four, in the city of Ballarat in Victoria state. The video has been viewed millions of times.

Cleaners walk down a street in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday as the city operates under lockdown in response to an outbreak of COVID-19. (Erik Anderson/AAP Image/Reuters)

The 28-year-old has since been charged with using social media platforms to incite others to break pandemic restrictions by attending weekend rallies.

Victoria is Australia’s COVID-19 hot spot and its capital, Melbourne, has been under lockdown restrictions unprecedented in Australia since early August. The state on Thursday reported 113 new infections and 15 deaths in the latest 24-hour period.

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