Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for May 9, 2022.
We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly throughout the day, with developments added as they happen, so be sure to check back often.
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Headlines at a glance
• Passengers are still at risk of coronavirus infection while travelling on airplanes and also in airports, researchers warned.
• Experts say Canada needs to turn its COVID-19 aid attention to expanding vaccine production everywhere or the virus will continue to run wild, mutate and bring new waves of disease.
• Vaccine makers are shifting gears and focusing on a more competitive market for effective booster shots after pushing out as much COVID vaccine as possible for the past 18 months.
• ‘Go home!’ Shanghai and Beijing tighten curbs on social contacts
• Federal agencies are trying to get a handle on how many Canadians may be suffering from long COVID as researchers learn more about the mysterious after-effects of the virus.
• Ontario Liberals pledge to add COVID-19 vaccine to school immunization list.
• A B.C. judge has dismissed a bid by Dr. Bonnie Henry to have a legal challenge to several of her COVID-19 health orders thrown out of court.
• The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV2 virus is intrinsically as severe as previous variants, according to a large U.S. study.
Researchers warn of air travel transmission risk
Passengers are still at risk of coronavirus infection while travelling on airplanes and also in airports, researchers warned.
Two passengers taking a 10-hour flight from Dubai to Australia in July 2020 infected 15 other people, despite masking requirements for travellers, functioning air purifiers, and use of masks, eye goggles, gloves and protective gowns by the flight crew, according to a report in the Journal of Travel Medicine.
Being seated within two rows of a primary case increased the risk of infection more than seven-fold, and spending more than an hour in the arrival airport increased it nearly five-fold, the study found. Seven of those who caught the virus were seated within 2 rows of the “index cases” in the economy section, but the others were seated far away, including some who were seated in business class.
At the time, all passengers entering Australia were required to submit to hotel quarantine and to provide blood samples for COVID-19 tests. Virus particles from the two originally infected travellers and the 15 newly-infected passengers had indistinguishable genomic sequences, according to the report.
“Conscientious mask wearing during travel reduced the risk of acquiring infection,” particularly for passengers seated nearby, the researchers said. “With the emergence of more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants … it is crucial to understand and mitigate potential risk exposures associated with all stages of air travel.”
Waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines, treatment to end pandemic, committee told
Experts say Canada needs to turn its COVID-19 aid attention to expanding vaccine production everywhere or the virus will continue to run wild, mutate and bring new waves of disease.
Dr. Madhukar Pai, a Canada Research Chair in epidemiology and global health at McGill University, told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee today he doesn’t think rich countries like Canada have learned a thing from the first two years of the pandemic.
The more the virus spreads the more chances it has to mutate, leading to variants like Omicron that are partially escaping vaccine protection.
He predicts that when Omicron-specific vaccines are finally available the cycle will repeat itself, with rich countries snapping up all the initial supplies while citizens of lower-income countries once again will have to wait.
Pai is one of several witnesses telling MPs that Canada has to start actively supporting a proposal to waive patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines and help transfer the technology so they can be made in more countries.
Canada’s vaccine equity strategy has largely rested on donating cash to the COVAX vaccine-sharing alliance, along with excess doses from its own supply, and has stayed neutral on a push to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization.
— The Canadian Press
Old cancer diagnosis not linked with worse COVID-19 outcomes
Patients diagnosed with cancer more than a year before contracting COVID-19 and those not receiving active treatment may be no more vulnerable to worse COVID outcomes than those without cancer, according to a new study.
“We found that recent cancer diagnoses were associated with a 17 per cent increased risk for death and 10 per cent increased risk for hospitalization,” said Youngran Kim of UT Health Houston in a statement. “However, a history of cancer more than one year before COVID-19 diagnosis was not significantly associated with increased mortality or hospitalization.”
Using electronic health records, Kim’s team studied 271,639 U.S. adults diagnosed with COVID-19 between June and December 2020, including more than 10,000 who had been diagnosed with cancer in the past year and roughly 8,000 whose cancer diagnosis had been made more than a year earlier.
As reported in PLOS One, recent cancer diagnoses were associated with higher risks for worse COVID-19 outcomes particularly among people with metastatic disease or cancers of the blood, liver or lungs. Higher risk for death was also linked to chemotherapy or radiation treatments within three months before SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The study found other disparities among recently-diagnosed cancer patients. In particular, those who were older, Black, received Medicare, and/or lived in the Southern United States were significantly more likely to die after SARS-CoV-2 infection.
COVID-19 vaccine makers are shifting gears and planning for a smaller, more competitive booster shot market after delivering as many doses as fast as they could over the last 18 months.
Executives at the biggest COVID vaccine makers including Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc said they believe most people who wanted to get vaccinated against COVID have already done so – more than 5 billion people worldwide.
In the coming year, most COVID vaccinations will be booster shots, or first inoculations for children, which are still gaining regulatory approvals around the world, they said.
Read the full story here.
China’s two biggest cities tightened COVID-19 curbs on their residents on Monday, raising new frustration and even questions about the legality of its uncompromising battle with the virus.
As authorities wrestle with China’s worst COVID outbreaks since the epidemic began, authorities in its most populous city of Shanghai have launched a new push to end infections outside quarantine zones by late May, people familiar with the matter said.
While there has been no official announcement, over the weekend some residents in at least four of its 16 districts received notices saying they were no longer able to leave their homes or receive deliveries as part of the effort to drive community infections down to zero.
Read the full story here.
Federal agencies are trying to get a handle on how many Canadians may be suffering from long COVID as researchers learn more about the mysterious after-effects of the virus.
The Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada have launched a survey to try to get a broad idea of how common it is for people to feel lingering effects after COVID-19 infection, which can be difficult to identify and even harder to track.
“We probably anticipate that the impact of long COVID is going to be quite substantial,” chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said at a media briefing Friday.
Relatively little is known about the effects of long COVID, also known as post-COVID-19 condition, including how to diagnose it.
The public health agency says there have been reports of more than 100 symptoms associated with the condition.
Read the full story here.
— The Canadian Press
Hospitalizations fall while deaths increase
The number of people in B.C. hospitals with COVID-19 dropped slightly, while the number of deaths increased, according to the latest data shared by health officials.
A total of 550 people were in hospital with coronavirus, 20 cases less than the previous round of updates. The number of deaths over a seven-day period, however, increased from 42 to 50 between April 24 to 30.
As of the latest data released on May 5, there had been a total of 365,577 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic started more than two years earlier.
– Staff Reporter
A judge has dismissed a bid by Dr. Bonnie Henry to have a legal challenge to several of her COVID-19 health orders thrown out of court.
The petition filed by an advocacy group argues the provincial health officer’s orders requiring vaccinations for health care workers are unconstitutional and should be set aside.
The Canadian Society for the Advancement of Science in Public Policy also alleges the orders fail to provide reasonable exemptions and accommodations for people with religious objections, vaccination risks, immunity from prior injection and recent negative COVID testing.
Lawyers for Henry say that the orders are reasonable measures aimed at limiting transmission in high-risk public settings, protecting public health and vulnerable populations, and safeguarding the health-care system.
— Keith Fraser
What are B.C.’s current public health measures?
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.
How do I get vaccinated in B. C.?
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.
Where can I get a COVID-19 test?
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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