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Why bailing out Air Canada is counterproductive

Rather than subsist on government aid, the company should urge officials to ease travel restrictions A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, the only thing keeping Air Canada alive is the federal government bailouts. They’re delaying the inevitable.

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Rather than subsist on government aid, the company should urge officials to ease travel restrictions

A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, the only thing keeping Air Canada alive is the federal government bailouts. They’re delaying the inevitable and sensible way out: cutting travel restrictions, encouraging tourism by ensuring effective containment and encouraging vaccination.

In April, the government granted the firm another $5.9-billion loan to keep it afloat until passengers can start flying again. Air Canada has vowed to refund ticket holders, restore regular services in airports, and hire back laid-off personnel when normalcy returns.

Unlike with previous loans, the federal government is now a shareholder of the company. It disbursed $500 million to purchase shares at $23 each as a way to guarantee repayment. The price per share before the pandemic was $50.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has argued taxpayers will benefit from stock returns as vaccinations rise and restrictions ease. However, Air Canada’s recovery looks distant. As tourism remains dormant – particularly with all of the spillover effects for the rest of the economy – taxpayers continue to foot a ballooning bill.

In 2020, Air Canada shrunk its workforce by more than 50 per cent, cut salaries and received an emergency subsidy to keep the rest of its payroll. In 2021, while the rest of the world overcomes the pandemic and opens up, the unprofitable company will rely on aid to survive another year.

Air Canada’s passenger load declined by 73 per cent in 2020, resulting in a $4.65-billion loss for the company. It recorded a profit of $1.48 billion in 2019.

With a revenue drop of 50 per cent, the airline was unable to meet its obligations. Air Canada fired around 200,000 workers and reduced the salaries of 3,200 management employees.

The two highest executives also waived all their wages for April, May and June of 2020 and halved their salaries for the next six months. Three other executives cut their wages in half for the first three months of 2020 and received a 20 per cent haircut for the rest of the year.

Air Canada also delayed paying financial liabilities. For instance, the United States Treasury Department recently filed a complaint against the company due to delays in client refunds. The U.S. government sought a US$25.5-million fine for the delays.

Although the company achieved $1.7 billion in savings in 2020 and decreased its planned capital spending from 2020 to 2023 by $3 billion, Air Canada is still on the tightrope.

According to its September 2020 balance sheet, Air Canada was $26.84 billion in debt, of which $7.24 billion was due within a year. Liabilities outweighed the sum of Air Canada’s cash and near-term receivables by $18.6 billion.

In light of the risky debt increase, Fitch Ratings downgraded the company’s long-term issuer default score to B+ from BB-. The rating agency forecasts Air Canada’s debt to increase until 2022 and revenues to remain below 2019 levels until 2024.

Fitch Ratings pointed out that leisure travel has the potential to trigger recovery. U.S.-focused carriers have performed better than Air Canada because of their higher exposure to business, interstate and international travel.

Rather than subsisting on government aid, Air Canada should be urging government officials to ease travel restrictions since the industry can no longer withstand grounding most of its aircraft.

According to Statistics Canada, travel restrictions reduced gross domestic product for the tourism industry by nearly half in 2020. Tourism jobs fell by 28.7 per cent.

Travel restrictions also led to significant losses in other industries. They resulted in a reduction of at least 1.2 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product and the loss of up to 500,000 jobs.

Issuing debt and getting new liabilities without sufficient operating cash flows is only postponing an inevitable default. If Air Canada’s managers stand by idly, taxpayers will bear the brunt.

Thousands of jobs and businesses that have been able to survive until now are at stake too. Officials can’t delay the decision any longer because recovery is not immediate.

Air Canada would need to first pay off looming liabilities and incur maintenance costs for grounded aircraft. Only then can the company start to see growing net income and benefit shareholders with higher valuations.

A blank cheque from the federal government is a recipe for stagnation, which is a death knell in a highly competitive industry like aviation.

Unless it can turn this around before other players resume normal travel, Air Canada is on a path to becoming another taxpayer-subsidized white elephant.

By Paz Gomez
Research associate
Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Paz Gómez is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Courtesy of  Troy Media.

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VIRI: Enrollment Complete in FORTRESS Trial; Results Expected in September 2022…

By David Bautz, PhD
NASDAQ:VIRI
READ THE FULL VIRI RESEARCH REPORT
Business Update
FORTRESS Trial Fully Enrolled; Topline Results in September 2022
On…

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By David Bautz, PhD

NASDAQ:VIRI

READ THE FULL VIRI RESEARCH REPORT

Business Update

FORTRESS Trial Fully Enrolled; Topline Results in September 2022

On April 28, 2022, Virios Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: VIRI) announced that it has completed enrollment of 425 fibromyalgia patients into the Phase 2b FORTRESS (Fibromyalgia Outcome Research Trial Evaluating Synergistic Suppression of Herpes Simplex Virus-1) trial, a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study of IMC-1. The primary endpoint of the trial is reduction in pain and secondary endpoints include change in fatigue, sleep disturbance, global health status, and patient functionality (NCT04748705). An outline of the trial is shown below.

In parallel with the FORTRESS trial, Virios is continuing the chronic toxicology studies of IMC-1 in two animal species. The results of these studies are required by regulators before Virios will be allowed to dose patients for one year or more, which is the plan for the Phase 3 program. The results of the chronic toxicology studies should be known around the time of the completion of the FORTRESS trial, thus the company should be able to move into a final Phase 3 program following completion of the current study, pending positive results.

Testing Combination Antiviral Therapy for the Treatment of Long COVID

In February 2022, Virios announced a collaboration with the Bateman Horne Center (BHC) to test combination antiviral therapy for the treatment of Long COVID. Following an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, approximately 30% of patients will experience symptoms that last for weeks or months, which is referred to as Long COVID. The range of symptoms varies from patient to patient, however the most commonly reported (from a recent meta analysis) were fatigue (58%), headache (44%), attention disorder (27%), hair loss (25%), and dyspnea (24%) (Lopez-Leon et al., 2021).

The main theories for what might be causing ...

Full story available on Benzinga.com

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Type-I interferon stops immune system ‘going rogue’ during viral infections

Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how…

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Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how to reduce that damage.

Credit: Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University

Hamilton, ON (May 17, 2022) – McMaster University researchers have found not only how some viral infections cause severe tissue damage, but also how to reduce that damage.

 

They have discovered how Type I interferon (IFN) stops the immune system ‘going rogue’ and attacking the body’s own tissues when fighting viral infections, including COVID-19.

 

Their paper was published in the journal PLOS Pathogens today.

  

Senior author Ali Ashkar said IFN is a well-known anti-viral signalling molecule released by the body’s cells that can trigger a powerful immune response against harmful viruses.

 

“What we have found is that it is also critical to stop white blood cells from releasing protease enzymes, which can damage organ tissue. It has this unique dual function to kick start an immune response against a viral infection on the one hand, as well as restrain that same response to prevent significant bystander tissue damage on the other,” he said.

 

The research team investigated IFN’s ability to regulate a potentially dangerous immune response by testing it on both flu and the HSV-2 virus, a highly prevalent sexually transmitted pathogen, using mice. Data from COVID-19 patients in Germany, including post-mortem lung samples, was also used in the study.

 

“For many viral infections, it is not actually the virus that causes most of the tissue damage, it is our heightened immune activation towards the virus,” said Ashkar, a professor of medicine at McMaster.

  

First co-author of the study and PhD student Emily Feng said: “Our body’s immune response is trying to fight off the virus infection, but there’s a risk of damaging innocent healthy tissue in the process. IFNs regulates the immune response to only target tissues that are infected.

 

“By discovering the mechanisms the immune system uses that can inadvertently cause tissue damage, we can intervene during infection to prevent this damage and not necessarily have to wait until vaccines are developed to develop life-saving treatments,” she added.

 

“This applies not just to COVID-19, but also other highly infectious viruses such as flu and Ebola, which can cause tremendous and often life-threatening damage to the body’s organs,” said first study co-author Amanda Lee, a family medicine resident. 

 

Ashkar said the release of harmful proteases is the result of a ‘cytokine storm’, which is life-threatening inflammation sometimes triggered by viral infections. It has been a common cause of death in patients with COVID-19, but treatment has been developed to prevent and suppress the cytokine storm.

 

Ashkar said that steroids like dexamethasone are already used to rein in an extreme immune response to viral infections. The authors used doxycycline in their study, an antibiotic used for bacterial infections and as an anti-inflammatory agent, inhibits the function of proteases causing the bystander tissue damage.

 

Lee added: “This has the potential in the future to be used to alleviate virus-induced life-threatening inflammation and warrants further research.” 

 

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

 

-30-

 

Editors:

Pictures of Ali Ashkar and Emily Feng may be found at https://bit.ly/3wmSw0D

  

 

 


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mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna fare better against COVID-19 variants of concern

A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World…

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A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World Health Organization’s variants of concern (VOCs) than viral vector vaccines — AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen. Although they all effectively prevent severe disease by VOCs, the research, publishing May 17th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine, suggests that people receiving a viral vector vaccine are more vulnerable to infection by new variants.

Credit: Carlos Reusser Monsalvez, Flickr (CC0, https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

A comparison of four COVID-19 vaccinations shows that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — perform better against the World Health Organization’s variants of concern (VOCs) than viral vector vaccines — AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen. Although they all effectively prevent severe disease by VOCs, the research, publishing May 17th in the open access journal PLOS Medicine, suggests that people receiving a viral vector vaccine are more vulnerable to infection by new variants.

By March 2022, COVID-19 had caused over 450 million confirmed infections and six million reported deaths. The first vaccines approved in the US and Europe that protect against serious infection are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which deliver genetic code, known as mRNA, to the bodies’ cells, whereas Oxford/AstraZeneca and J&J/Janssen are viral vector vaccines that use a modified version of a different virus — a vector — to deliver instructions to our cells. Three vaccines are delivered as two separate injections a few weeks apart, and J&J/Janssen as a single dose.

Marit J. van Gils at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues, took blood samples from 165 healthcare workers, three and four weeks after first and second vaccination respectively, and for J&J/Janssen at four to five and eight weeks after vaccination. Samples were collected before, and four weeks after a Pfizer-BioNTech booster.

Four weeks after the initial two doses, antibody responses to the original SARS-CoV-2 viral strain were highest in recipients of Moderna, followed closely by Pfizer-BioNTech, and were substantially lower in those who received viral vector vaccines. Tested against the VOCs – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron – neutralizing antibodies were higher in the mRNA vaccine recipients compared to those who had viral vector vaccines. The ability to neutralize VOCs was reduced in all vaccine groups, with the greatest reduction against Omicron. The Pfizer-BioNTech booster increased antibody responses in all groups with substantial improvement against VOCs, including Omicron.

The researchers caution that their AstraZeneca group was significantly older, because of safety concerns for the vaccine in younger age groups. As immune responses tend to weaken with age, this could affect the results. This group was also smaller because the Dutch government halted use for a period.

van Gils concludes, “Four COVID-19 vaccines induce substantially different antibody responses.”

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In your coverage, please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper in PLOS Medicine:

http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003991

Citation: van Gils MJ, Lavell A, van der Straten K, Appelman B, Bontjer I, Poniman M, et al. (2022) Antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 variants induced by four different SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in health care workers in the Netherlands: A prospective cohort study. PLoS Med 19(5): e1003991. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003991

 

Author Countries: The Netherlands, United States

 

Funding: This work was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) ZonMw (Vici grant no. 91818627 to R.W.S., S3 study, grant agreement no. 10430022010023 to M.K.B.; RECoVERED, grant agreement no. 10150062010002 to M.D.d.J.), by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (grant no. INV002022 and INV008818 to R.W.S. and INV-024617 to M.J.v.G.), by Amsterdam UMC through the AMC Fellowship (to M.J.v.G.) and the Corona Research Fund (to M.K.B.), and by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program (RECoVER, grant no. 101003589 to M.D.d.J). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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