November 30, 2022

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the coronavirus situation in B.C. and around the world.
Here’s your update with everything you need to know about the COVID situation in B.C. and around the world for the week of Oct. 13-19. This page will be updated with the latest COVID news and related research developments daily throughout the week, so be sure to check back often.

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Here are the latest weekly B.C. figures given on Oct. 13 for the week of Oct. 2-8:

• Hospitalized cases: 365
• Intensive care: 19
• New cases: 697 over seven days ending Oct. 8
• Total number of confirmed cases: 386,293
• Total deaths over seven days ending Oct. 1: 25 (total 4,370)

Read the full report here | Next update: Oct. 20

A retired Ottawa lawyer who lives downtown told an inquiry Friday that she still experiences hearing loss, lung and throat problems, vertigo and mental health issues after enduring the three-week “Freedom Convoy” occupation last winter

Victoria De La Ronde said the noise and horn-honking during the protest made it difficult to sleep, while diesel fumes and smells affected her lungs and throat.

De La Ronde said she was still triggered by the sound of horns, loud music and the smell of gas.

She was among a handful of witnesses at the Public Order Emergency Commission’s first day of testimony who described in graphic detail what they experienced when downtown Ottawa was clogged with trucks and protesters.

The commission is examining the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act to help clear the protest in Ottawa and blockades of U.S.-Canada border crossings at Windsor, Ont., and Coutts, Alta.

Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

The Canadian Armed Forces plans to press ahead with the forced expulsion of dozens of unvaccinated troops despite a new order from defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre on Friday ending the military’s blanket COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Eyre said that is because service members are expected to follow legal orders — and that a refusal by some troops to get their shots “raises questions about your suitability to serve in uniform.”

“It’s dangerous in the military to have legal orders disobeyed,” he said. “It’s a very slippery slope.”

Vaccines will no longer be required for all those serving in uniform, including as a prerequisite for joining the military, but will instead be based on the roles and responsibilities of individual service members.

The defence chief’s new order includes a list of those who will still need two doses of a Health Canada-approved vaccine, with an emphasis on quick-response units such as special forces and the disaster assistance response team.

There are also requirements based on deployments alongside specific allies or organizations, including those working with NATO or the United Nations, as well as all sailors on warships operating overseas.

“We’ve got to remember that a ship out in the middle of the ocean doesn’t have access to intensive medical care,” Eyre said, adding that some allies such as the United States and Japan require military members to have vaccines.

— The Canadian Press

Most patients with COVID-19 who have lingering symptoms at 12 months are likely to still have symptoms at 18 months, new data suggest.

The findings are drawn from a large study of 33,281 people in Scotland who tested positive for the coronavirus. Most of the results are in line with those from earlier, smaller studies.

Among a subset of 197 survivors of symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections who completed surveys at 12 months and 18 months, most reported lingering symptoms at both time points, researchers reported in Nature Communications.

Rates of no recovery at 12 months were 11% with 51% partial recovery and 39% complete recovery. Rates at 18 months were 11% no recovery, 51% partial and 39% complete.

Asymptomatic infections were not associated with long COVID. But among the 31,486 people with symptomatic infections, nearly half reported incomplete recovery at six to 18 months.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

B.C. reported another 25 deaths linked to COVID-19 in the latest weekly report through Oct. 8.

Accounting for deaths that were recorded too late for earlier updates, there have now been 4,370 people who died with COVID since the start of the pandemic.

As of Thursday, there were 365 people in hospital with COVID, a slight drop from a week earlier. The number of patients admitted to intensive care dropped by 10 to 19.

Another 697 confirmed cases were tallied in the week ending Oct. 8, though that number underestimates the true prevalence of the virus due to limited PCR testing.

Here’s a primer on how to interpret the weekly data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

— Joseph Ruttle

The United States on Thursday extended the COVID-19 pandemic’s status as a public health emergency for another 90 days, thereby preserving measures like high payments to hospitals and expanded Medicaid.

The extension was announced by U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra on Thursday. Last month, President Joe Biden said in an interview that “the pandemic is over,” which prompted criticism from health experts.

The toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has diminished significantly since early in Biden’s term when more than 3,000 Americans per day were dying, as enhanced care, medications and vaccinations have become more widely available.

But hundreds of people a day continue to die from the coronavirus in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— Reuters

Public health experts say rising COVID-19 hospitalizations are a reminder the virus is still present in Alberta, as flu season is on the horizon.

Data released Wednesday by Alberta Health show there were 1,014 people with COVID-19 in hospital as of Oct. 10, an increase of 38 from two weeks earlier. The data also showed 40 people have died with the virus in Alberta over those two weeks.

Dr. Craig Jenne, with the University of Calgary’s department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases, said the recent jump is a reminder that the virus is still circulating. He said it is still important for people to keep their immunity topped up.

“It’s still there, still a problem. We still have to treat it with respect, but it does appear that we’re in a different place than we were the last two autumn or fall seasons,” said Jenne.

— Calgary Herald

The rhythm of pre-pandemic life is back around much of the world. Munich’s Oktoberfest tents are full, tourists are returning in Tokyo and New York, masks have come off in the subways.

The previous two autumn seasons ended with new COVID-19 variants spurring fresh waves of cases and social restrictions. This year is different: the super-contagious but less severe Omicron has shown unusual staying power — even as it spawned hundreds of sublineages.

The world has learned that the coronavirus is fickle, and as cases start to creep up again, so does concern about unpredictable developments. But if omicron’s dominance holds, it could point to a drift reminiscent of the flu’s annual changes and pave the way for COVID to settle into a more predictable pattern.

Any successor to Omicron will face an uphill battle. It will need to be both more transmissible and better able to sidestep the immunity people have built, said Ralf Bartenschlager, a German virologist and professor at Heidelberg University.

“It’s like throwing dice,” Bartenschlager said in an interview. “During the replication of the virus, the dice are constantly thrown, and the best-fitting number gets an advantage.”

“We can even be happy — in quotation marks — that we now have an omicron variant that has taken over from the original strains,” he added.

The World Health Organization is tracking more than 300 sub-lineages of omicron, officials there said last week. The BA.5 subvariant that swept across the globe this summer still dominates, accounting for some four-fifths of sequences.

— Bloomberg

Pfizer Inc. and its German COVID vaccine partner said their booster shot tailored to the latest omicron variants appears to offer better protection than the original against currently dominant versions of the virus.

Blood from volunteers collected seven days after the booster shot showed a substantial increase in neutralizing antibodies against the BA.4/BA.5 subvariants in a study, Pfizer and BioNTech SE said in a statement Thursday.

Pfizer shares rose 2.9 per cent in U.S. premarket trading, while BioNTech was up 0.3 per cent in Frankfurt.

The data bring some of the first evidence that the vaccine does provide better protection compared with earlier shots that were based on the original strain of the virus.

The World Health Organization is tracking more than 300 sub-lineages of omicron at the moment. The BA.5 subvariant that swept across the globe this summer still dominates, accounting for some four-fifths of sequences.

“While we expect more mature immune-response data from the clinical trial of our Omicron BA.4/BA.5-adapted bivalent vaccine in the coming weeks, we are pleased to see encouraging responses just one week after vaccination in younger and older adults,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in the statement. “These early data suggest that our bivalent vaccine is anticipated to provide better protection against currently circulating variants than the original vaccine, and potentially help to curb future surges in cases this winter.”

— Bloomberg

China has defended its controversial and costly COVID-zero policy for the fourth day in a row — this time through one of the country’s top virus officials — as authorities ramp up efforts to quell discontent ahead of the twice-a-decade Party Congress.

Liang Wannian, a National Health Commission panel expert, said at a briefing on Thursday that it’s inevitable the curbs the country uses to control transmission have impacted the economy, but the approach is scientific and effective. He reiterated that the zero-tolerance policy reduces infections and the instances of long Covid, protects the elderly and saves lives.

“Based on these considerations, it is necessary for China to persist” with its COVID-zero strategy, Liang told reporters in Beijing, where the Party Congress is due to start later this week.

His remarks follow three consecutive days of commentaries published by Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily that stridently defended China’s virus approach. The rare campaign, just days before President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a precedent-breaking third term in power, is a strong signal to the public and investors that the country is unlikely to move away from COVID-zero anytime soon. It’s also an important signal to any party cadres who had doubts about the path forward.

Despite the vociferous defence, signs are emerging that the public’s patience with pandemic measures is starting to unravel. About two dozen police patrolled a busy Beijing intersection on Thursday after photos and videos circulated of a rare protest that took aim directly at Xi. One banner unfurled on a bridge in the capital said “we want food, not PCR tests. We want freedom, not lockdowns and controls,” along with other slogans.

Officials said China has had 1 million COVID cases since the start of the pandemic, the first time the figure has been revealed publicly. That’s about 0.07 per cent of its entire population, with health officials noting that the low rate of infections, as well as its total death toll of 5,226, pales in comparison with countries like the U.S.

— Bloomberg

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she didn’t mean to trivialize prejudice faced by minority communities when she suggested unvaccinated people have experienced the most discrimination she has ever seen in her lifetime.

Smith’s comment on her first day as premier drew criticism from across Canada — including B.C. Premier John Horgan, who called it “laughable,” and at least one Jewish group who says it reached out to her office to express concern.

Smith said in a statement Wednesday that she intended to underline the mistreatment of individuals who chose not to be vaccinated.

“I want to be clear that I did not intend to trivialize in any way the discrimination faced by minority communities and other persecuted groups or create any false equivalencies to the terrible historical discrimination and persecution suffered by so many minority groups,” said the statement.

Smith was sworn in Tuesday as Alberta’s new premier after the United Conservative Party elected her in a leadership race to replace Jason Kenney as leader and premier.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

Novavax Inc said on Wednesday data from studies in adults and adolescents showed that the booster dose of its COVID vaccine produced robust antibodies against several Omicron variants, including BA.1, BA.2 and BA.5.

The data was from two studies – a late-stage study evaluating the booster in adults and adolescents who had received Novavax primary vaccination and another study testing it in those aged 18 to 49 who had received primary series of Novavax vaccine or other authorized or approved vaccines.

In the late-stage study, a single homologous booster dose significantly increased antibody levels against these variants relative to pre-boost levels, the company said.

“These data are an early indication that our vaccine may be effective against variants such as Omicron,” Novavax executive Gregory M. Glenn said.

The company said ongoing trials are studying the efficacy of the vaccine against variants including BA.4 and BA.5.

— Reuters

As Japan throws open its doors to visitors this week after more than two years of pandemic isolation, hopes for a tourism boom face tough headwinds amid shuttered shops and a shortage of hospitality workers.

From Tuesday, Japan will reinstate visa-free travel to dozens of countries, ending some of world’s strictest border controls to slow the spread of COVID-19. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is counting on tourism to help invigorate the economy and reap some benefits from the yen’s slide to a 24-year low.

Arata Sawa is among those eager for the return of foreign tourists, who previously comprised up to 90 per cent of the guests at his traditional inn.

— Reuters

People banged pots and lids and cheered and whistled. They bought the nurses sandwiches and pizza and Starbucks gift cards and called them heroes. For many nurses, “hero” never sat well. They’re not heroes, or angels. Nursing is an art and a science. They chose it, and they did what they were trained to do: They went to work. They scrambled for masks and gowns and linens and IV tubing. They watched people die from a virus we didn’t understand, put breathing tubes down people’s throats to keep them alive, performed unprotected CPR when there was no time to fully gown up. The sick people kept coming, nurses became infected and it seemed the surges would never end: A brief reprieve, and then right back at it again. “We’re burning out,” the nurses warned. Is anyone listening?

Read the full story here.

— Sharon Kirkey, National Post

The first doses of the most up-to-date vaccine for COVID-19 will start arriving in Canada next week after Health Canada gave the green light to the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot on Friday.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser, said the combination vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech that targets both the original coronavirus and the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of Omicron can now be offered to Canadians who at least 12 years old.

“If you are six months post any vaccine and COVID illness, then you should get your bivalent vaccine, you should get that booster,” Sharma said.

“And that’ll help you in terms of serious illness protection, but it will also give you some protection, especially in the short term against potentially getting infected with COVID.”

This shot was authorized through a process similar to the one used for annual flu shots, which meant the approval could come much quicker. Sharma said the vaccine has already been given to nearly five million Americans and no safety signals have arisen.

Canadians can get the shot as early as three months after their most recent booster, but Sharma said she wouldn’t recommend doing it sooner than that. She said doses too close together can limit the effectiveness of the extra dose.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said 2.8 million doses of the new Pfizer booster will be shipped to Canada next week, and 11 million by the end of the year. Provincial governments will announce separately who will become eligible to get this shot and when.

Combination vaccines, referred to as bivalent by vaccine makers, target more than one strain of the virus. Pfizer’s BA.4 and BA.5 boosters is the second bivalent authorized in Canada.

A Moderna booster approved five weeks ago targets the original virus and the first strain of the Omicron variant.

Sharma said there isn’t a lot of difference between the results of being boosted with one or the other, even though BA.4 and BA.5 are the dominant strains in circulation now.

Health Canada data show in mid September, 88 per cent of COVID-19 cases that were sequenced to identify the strain proved to be BA.5 and nine per cent were BA.4.

— The Canadian Press

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry say the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine approved this week by Health Canada will be made available soon to anyone 12 and older in the province looking for a more robust COVID booster.

“The updated vaccine targets the Omicron variant, as well as the original strain of the virus,” said the top provincial health officials in a joint statement.

“The Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine will be available to people 12 and older. The Moderna bivalent vaccine, which was approved on Sept. 1, 2022, is available to people 18 and older.

“Both bivalent vaccines induce a stronger, more robust immune response and provide better protection against the Omicron variant and subvariants.”

The bivalents will be the primary vaccines offered during the fall booster campaign. B.C. is expected to get more than 1.7 million doses of the Pfizer shot starting next week, and already has 1.4 million doses of the Moderna equivalent.

Starting Oct. 11, both the COVID bivalents and flu shots will be available so people can get both in a single visit.

More on the new bivalent vaccines from Susan Lazaruk here.

— Joseph Ruttle

MASKS: Masks are not required in public indoor settings though individual businesses and event organizers can choose to require them.

Masks are also encouraged but not required on board public transit and B.C. Ferries, though they are still required in federally regulated travel spaces such as trains, airports and airplanes, and in health care settings.

GATHERINGS AND EVENTS: There are currently no restrictions on gatherings and events such as personal gatherings, weddings, funerals, worship services, exercise and fitness activities, and swimming pools.

There are also no restrictions or capacity limits on restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs; and no restrictions on sport activities.

CARE HOMES: There are no capacity restrictions on visitors to long-term care and seniors’ assisted living facilities, however, visitors must show proof of vaccination before visiting. Exemptions are available for children under the age of 12, those with a medical exemption, and visitors attending for compassionate visits related to end-of-life.

Visitors to seniors’ homes are also required to take a rapid antigen test before visiting the facility or be tested on arrival. Exemptions to testing are available for those attending for compassionate visits or end-of-life care.

Everyone who is living in B.C. and eligible for a vaccine can receive one by following these steps:

• Get registered online at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated to book an appointment in your community.
• Or, if you prefer, you can get registered and then visit a drop-in clinic in your health authority.
• The system will alert you when it is time to go for your second dose.
• The same system will also alert you when it is time for your booster dose.

TESTING CENTRES: B.C.’s COVID-19 test collection centres are currently only testing those with symptoms who are hospitalized, pregnant, considered high risk or live/work with those who are high risk. You can find a testing centre using the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s testing centre map.

If you have mild symptoms, you do not need a test and should stay home until your fever is gone. Those without symptoms do not need a test.

TAKE-HOME RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS: Eligible British Columbians over the age of 18 with a personal health number can visit a pharmacy to receive a free take-home test kit containing five COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the coronavirus situation in B.C. and around the world.
Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the coronavirus situation in B.C. and around the world.
Vancouver escort Jessica Kane was charged this week with manslaughter in the man’s death.
B.C. public health officials are encouraging everyone to take either of the two bivalent vaccines to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed this fall and winter
The notice does not include reasons for withdrawing Issaluk’s membership and Rideau Hall did not elaborate.
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