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A look at COVID-19 reopening plans across the country – 95.7 News

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As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase, the provinces and territories have been releasing their reopening plans for businesses, events and recreational facilities.

Most of the plans are based on each jurisdiction reaching vaccination targets at certain dates, while also keeping the number of cases and hospitalizations down. 

Here’s a look at what reopening plans look like across the country:

National:

Canada is once again allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents back into the country, provided they’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The 17-month long ban on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border was eased Aug. 9, although the Americans have yet to lift their own limits on Canadian travellers. 

Eligible visitors must live in the U.S. and have allowed 14 days to pass since receiving a full course of a Health Canada-approved vaccine. 

They are also required to show proof of a negative molecular test for COVID-19 that’s no more than 72 hours old and to use the ArriveCAN app or online web portal to upload their vaccination details.

Newfoundland and Labrador:

Newfoundland and Labrador is in the second step of its reopening plan.

Fully and partially vaccinated travellers from Canada no longer need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, nor do they have to self-isolate.

With more than 60 per cent of residents aged 12 and over now fully vaccinated, the province says masks are no longer mandatory in most places.

They are, however, still required in health facilities and in congregate living centres for seniors. 

Meanwhile, limits on indoor gatherings have risen to 500 people as long as social distancing is maintained.

There are now no capacity restrictions at restaurants and lounges, as long as physical distancing is maintained. 

Dancing is now permitted, but buffets remain closed.

Nova Scotia:

Nova Scotia has further reduced COVID-19 public health orders after entering the fourth phase of its reopening.

Retail stores can now operate at full capacity, churches and other venues can operate at half capacity or with a maximum of 150 people, and up to 50 people can attend outdoor family gatherings.

Capacity limits for dance classes, music lessons and indoor play spaces have also been lifted.

Organized sports practices, games, league play, competitions and recreation programs can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors without physical distancing.

Day camps can operate with 30 campers per group plus staff and volunteers, following the day camp guidelines. In addition, professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors without physical distancing.

Meanwhile, fully vaccinated residents of long-term care homes can now have visitors in their rooms and visit their family’s homes, including for overnight stays.

New Brunswick:

The province has lifted all public health orders and its mask mandate has also expired. 

All limits on gatherings are now removed, including in theatres and stores. 

Restaurants, gyms and salons can also operate at full capacity, as long as customer contact lists are kept.

New Brunswick had earlier moved into the second phase of its reopening plan, which opened travel without the need to isolate to all of Nova Scotia after earlier opening to P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Travellers from elsewhere in Canada who’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can enter the province without the need to isolate, while those who haven’t had a shot must still isolate and produce a negative test before being released from quarantine.

Prince Edward Island: 

Prince Edward Island has dropped its requirement that non-medical masks be worn in public indoor spaces.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says masks are still encouraged to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and businesses are free to adopt stricter rules.

Officials say those who serve the public, such as in restaurants, retail stores and hair salons, should continue to wear a mask.

All health-care facilities will continue to require masks until 80 per cent of eligible P.E.I. residents are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the province has allowed personal gatherings to increase so that up to 20 people can get together indoors and outdoors. Restaurants are allowed to have tables of up to 20. Special occasion events like backyard weddings and anniversary parties of up to 50 people hosted by individuals are permitted with a reviewed operational plan.

Organized gatherings hosted by a business or other organization are permitted with groups of up to 200 people outdoors or 100 people indoors.

On Sept. 12, the province expects physical distancing measures to be eased, as well as allowing personal and organized gatherings to go ahead without limits. 

Quebec: 

The Quebec government has cancelled two concerts that were intended to be experiments examining the impact  of COVID-19 on large gatherings.

Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx said in a news release that rising COVID-19 cases in the province make conditions too difficult to hold the two events that were to host a total of up to 25,000 people.

The concerts had been scheduled for the Quebec City area in September in collaboration with researchers at Universite Laval.

The province is testing a smartphone app that will run the vaccine passport system the government plans to impose across the province on Sept. 1.

The passport would be used in settings with a high degree of contact, such as festivals, bars, restaurants and gyms.

Health Minister Christian Dube says the government wants to have the smartphone app ready for use across the province by September.

Dube says it will read the QR code sent to people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, adding that both businesses and clients will need to download the software.

Quebecers are currently allowed to drink alcohol in bars and restaurants until 1 a.m., gaining an additional hour from the previous restrictions. 

Indoor venues and stadiums can now seat 7,500 people, and outdoor festivals can have up to 15,000 with pre-assigned seats. 

Indoor public events can have up to 250 people while 500 people are permitted at outdoor public gatherings. 

Quebec is, however, maintaining mandatory masks and social distancing in enclosed public spaces and transit.

Students returning to school in the coming weeks will be required to wear a procedural mask but not in the classroom.

Masks will be required on the bus, when entering school and in common areas inside, but not in class, the schoolyard or in after school care.

The province earlier removed capacity restrictions in retail stores and reduced the two-metre physical distancing health order to one metre.

It permitted gyms and restaurant dining rooms to reopen in June, ended its nightly curfew on May 28, and also lifted travel bans between regions.

Ontario:

Ontario will stay in Step 3 of its reopening plan for now, maintaining capacity limits on businesses, gatherings and other settings. 

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health said reopening needs to be paused to allow time for the new policies to take effect, adding that Ontario’s vaccination rates need to be higher. 

Social gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Religious services and other ceremonies are allowed indoors with larger groups of people who are physically distanced.

Nightclubs and similar establishments are open to 25 per cent capacity. Crowd limits have expanded for retail stores and salons, which can offer services that require masks to be removed.

Spectators are permitted at sporting events, concert venues, cinemas and theatres, with larger limits on crowds for outdoor events. 

Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, bingo halls and amusement parks are also open with larger crowd limits on outdoor attractions. 

Masking and physical distancing rules, however, remain in place.

Fully vaccinated Ontarians considered close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 no longer have to isolate unless they develop symptoms or are directed to do so by public health.

In its school-specific guidance, the province says fully immunized high-risk contacts of positive or likely COVID-19 cases don’t have to isolate or be dismissed from classes unless they have symptoms.

Vaccinated individuals with symptoms who receive a negative COVID-19 test result can return to school if their symptoms improve over 24 hours, or after 48 hours if they had gastrointestinal symptoms.

Unvaccinated, high-risk contacts of positive or likely cases need to isolate for 10 days and it’s recommended that they take a COVID-19 test seven days into their isolation.

The province says household members of those who are close contacts of positive cases have to abide by similar rules.

Returning students will be allowed to play on sports teams and with friends from other classes during recess, share materials such as toys in kindergarten, use instruments in music class, go on field trips and ditch masks outdoors.

Students will be attending in person for full days, five days a week – unless they have opted for remote learning – and high school students will have timetables with no more than two courses at a time.

Manitoba:

Manitoba has loosened more COVID-19 restrictions, including removing its mask mandate.

All restrictions are now removed for private gatherings and businesses, including hair salons, libraries, retail stores, malls and gyms.

The rules around capacity have been loosened for religious services, weddings and funerals. Museums, galleries and movie theatres can still only have 50 per cent capacity but can open up to unvaccinated people.

Sporting events and casinos can open to full capacity but are restricted only to those who are fully vaccinated.

Restaurants and bars no longer need to restrict the space between tables and people dining are not required to eat with only those in their household.

Masks are no longer required but are strongly recommended for people who are unvaccinated. And they are still necessary when going into a hospital or care home.

Meanwhile, the province says masks will be strongly recommended, but not mandatory, when students return to class on September 7th.

Manitoba’s back-to-school plan also recommends physical distancing “to the greatest extent possible”.

Students will return to in-class learning full-time, except for those who are immunocompromised or have family members that are.

Extracurricular activities such as sports teams and field trips will also return, and kids from kindergarten to Grade 6 will be grouped in cohorts to minimize contacts.

Saskatchewan:

Saskatchewan has removed all public health orders — including the province-wide mandatory masking order, as well as capacity limits on events and gathering sizes.

Premier Scott Moe says the province decided to go ahead with full implementation of Step 3 of its Reopening Roadmap because more than 70 per cent of residents over the age of 18 and 76 per cent of those over 12 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Despite the lifting of the health orders, Regina and Saskatoon say they will still keep up extra cleaning in municipal facilities.

Alberta: 

Most remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on July 1.

There are no longer limits on weddings, funerals or bans on indoor social gatherings. In addition, there are no more limits on gyms, sports or fitness activities, no more capacity limits at restaurants, in retail stores or in places of worship.

However, anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 must still self-isolate and protective measures at continuing care centres may remain.

Alberta is also walking back its decision to eliminate isolation requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19 after weeks of pressure from local leaders, physicians and families.

Chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw has announced that Alberta is also extending a masking mandate for public transit and will continue testing for any symptomatic individuals as cases spike.

All remaining public health restrictions were to lift Aug. 16, but will now remain in place for another six weeks until Sept 27.

Hinshaw said an unexpected rise in hospitalizations and emerging data from the United States on pediatric cases linked to the highly contagious Delta variant are behind the pause.

The overall requirement for masks in public indoor spaces ended on July 1, and some remaining COVID-19 health restrictions in continuing-care centres have also been eased.

The province is no longer limiting the number of visitors, however, visitors still need to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure, and masks are still required in common areas.

The province recommends people wear a mask at all times when visiting a care home if they have not been fully vaccinated, including children under 12.

Limits on dining and recreation activities have been eliminated, and residents are not required to be screened if they are re-entering the building or go into quarantine if they have gone off site.

Unvaccinated students and staff at Edmonton’s University of Alberta, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge will have to get regular COVID-19 rapid tests to attend campus this fall.

The three research schools said they won’t mandate vaccinations but anyone who refuses to disclose vaccination status or who is not fully immunized will need to regularly test negative to attend campus.

Face masks will be required in all public areas of the universities.

British Columbia:

The province took the next step in its reopening plan on Canada Day when most COVID-19 restrictions were removed and outdoor gatherings of up to 5,000 people got the go ahead.

However, a surge in COVID-19 cases spurred by the Delta variant has prompted B-C’s health officials to enact mandatory vaccine requirements for all staff and volunteers at long-term care and assisted living sites. The deadline for workers to get vaccinated is October 12th.

Meanwhile, most restaurants and pubs no longer have limits on the number of diners, but people are still not allowed to mingle with those at other tables. Masks are no longer mandatory in most places and recreational travel outside the province can resume.

Most casinos and nightclubs are also open again, though some barriers remain in place and socializing between tables is not allowed.

The exception to the new rules is the central Okanagan region where some restrictions have been reinstated following a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Outdoor gatherings are once again limited to 50 individuals, while indoor get-togethers are reduced to five extra people, plus those in the household.

Nightclubs and bars are closed and liquor is now cutoff at 10 p.m. at restaurants. 

High intensity indoor fitness classes are cancelled, though low intensity exercise at fitness centres is still permitted.

Masks are also mandatory in all indoor public places in central Okanagan communities including Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Lake Country and West Bank First Nations lands.

Health officials are asking people who intended to travel to the central Okanagan to try to change their plans.

Nunavut:

Nunavut has closed its travel bubble with the Northwest Territories after an increase in cases of COVID-19 over the last few days.

That means unvaccinated travellers must isolate for 14 days in a Yellowknife isolation hotel before coming to Nunavut.

Travellers with a same-ticket layover, vaccinated people travelling with unvaccinated dependants 12 years old or younger, and critical workers are exempt from the isolation requirement.

The government has released a long-term plan that will work toward treating COVID-19 like any other vaccine-preventable disease.

The plan, which is called Nunavut’s Path: Living with COVID-19, will move Nunavut from restrictions to what it calls “baseline measures,” which it says are the lowest level of restrictions still needed in the territory to reduce the risk of introduction of the virus. The measures will be assessed every two to four weeks.

Right now, baseline measures include limiting household gatherings to 15 people and opening restaurants and bars at 75 per cent capacity. Masks are no longer mandatory in Nunavut but their use is still strongly encouraged.

The plan says the ultimate goal is to end the territory’s public health emergency, which has been in place for more than a year, and eliminate all public health restrictions.

For now, all schools in Nunavut also plan to reopen at full capacity for in-class learning this fall.

Northwest Territories:

Up to 25 people are allowed in a business that is following an approved COVID-19 plan. Households can have up to 10 people with a maximum of five guests from another household.

Non-essential travel outside the territory is not recommended, and leisure travel into the territory is not permitted.

The territory is no longer requiring masks to be worn in public places in Yellowknife and three other communities.

But chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola says it’s still a good idea to wear a mask indoors when there is a crowd, poor ventilation, or shouting or singing.

Yukon:

The Yukon government has lifted a series of public health restrictions.

The territory says masks are no longer required in indoor spaces but are strongly recommended when it’s difficult to practise physical distancing.

Shops, grocers, bars, restaurants, recreational centres and transit operators should be respected if they ask clients to wear masks.

Self-isolation after domestic travel is no longer required for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, while bars and restaurants may return to full capacity.

Certain public health restrictions remain in place, including limits on the number of people who can gather at gyms and recreation centres. Social gatherings are still limited to 20 people indoors and to 100 outdoors. Organized events of any kind are capped at 200 people, with physical distancing required at all children’s gatherings.

Unvaccinated people should stick to six people and keep their circle small, the territory said in a statement.

Schools will return to “near-normal” operations this fall, offering full-time, in-class instruction.

Students won’t have to wear masks in class, but masks will be required for adults and kids aged five and up in common areas.

School buses are set to resume normal operations with masks required for drivers and children five and up.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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A new Langya virus has infected 35 people in China. Here's what you need to know – Salon

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Just as COVID-19 began its life as a mysterious virus that crossed over from an animal to humans, it is natural that the public might look at other emergent zoonotic viruses with similar wariness. This, perhaps, explains the recent attention paid to a new Langya virus outbreak in China that has already infected 35 people. Could this lead to another global pandemic?

Fortunately, that is very unlikely, experts say. Unfortunately, that does not mean that the virus is not a threat, as a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that there were 35 infections in a pair of eastern Chinese provinces in 2021.

Yet one reason not to be alarmed is, quite simply, that none of those patients died. Another lies in the nature of the Langya virus itself: It does not appear to have spread through human-to-human contact, and the infected patients all had close contact with animals like fruit bats and shrews, which were likely the original hosts.

RELATED: How 40 years without smallpox vaccinations could make the monkeypox outbreak worse

“There are clearly repeated transmission events from what looks to be a common reservoir in shrews,” Vaughn Cooper, an evolutionary biology professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told NBC News. “The team did a very nice job of evaluating alternatives and finding that as the most likely explanation.”

Yet while this virus does not seem to pose a global threat, it is part of a classification of viruses with a long and ugly history. They are known as henipaviruses.


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Henipaviruses are negative-strand RNA viruses that are commonly found in mammals like shrews and fruit bats. Some henipaviruses are very dangerous; the Nipah virus, for instance, has a fatality rate between 40% and 75%. In addition to causing fevers, headaches, coughing and other flu-like symptoms, the Nipah virus can lead to serious side effects like brain swelling (encephalitis), seizures and even comas. Then there is the Hendra virus which has a fatality rate of 57% for the humans that it infects, bringing with it symptoms that can as with the Nipah virus also seem flu-like — and, likewise, can lead to brain swelling and death.

While the Langya virus does not appear to be a global threat, other henipaviruses do pose large problems on the regional level. A February article in the scientific journal PLOS: Neglected Tropical Diseases had this observation about the Nipah virus (NiV).

“Malaysia (43%), Bangladesh (42%), and India (15%) represent all incident cases of human NiV infections worldwide,” the authors explained. “Apart from the human catastrophe of high morbidity and mortality rates during documented epidemic outbreaks, the economic impact is tremendous. After the first NiV outbreak in 1999, Malaysian pig industry and related sectors suffered enormous damage, i.e., 1.1 million pigs were culled costing about US$66.8 million with a total decrease in the Malaysian economy of around 30% during that time.”

The authors also said that a global spread could arise from henipaviruses that can be spread through person-to-person transmission — such as NiV.

“The capacity for NiV to spread in hospital settings between staff and patients was shown in an outbreak 2001 in Siliguri, India, which affected 66 people,” the authors wrote. “The outbreak originated from an unidentified patient admitted to Siliguri District Hospital who infected 11 people. Thus, the ability of NiV to spread from patients to nursing staff has raised concern that the virus might adapt to more efficient human-to-human transmission.”

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Monkeypox may be spreading in Saskatchewan, says Shahab – Regina Leader Post

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The province’s chief medical health officer issued a public advisory about the virus on Saturday, asking people to be aware of the symptoms and to seek testing.

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Health officials are warning that the monkeypox virus may be spreading in Saskatchewan, after several out-of-province cases have been linked back to the province as a place of exposure.

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Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab issued a public advisory about the virus on Saturday, asking people to be aware of the symptoms and to be diligent in seeking testing.

Three cases have been reported in Saskatchewan since early July, Shahab said, all linked to out-of-province transmission or travel.

Shahab said that in-province transmission has now been detected and reported by out-of-province travellers who were exposed in Saskatchewan, prompting the advisory.

“We’re at a stage where we think people are at high risk,” said Shahab. “We think the situation has changed in the last week (and) there is higher risk that we may see ongoing transmission in Saskatchewan.”

Monkeypox is transmitted primarily through prolonged skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact or with items like bedsheets or other surfaces contaminated by a person while infectious. A person can remain infectious for 5 to 21 days after exposure to the virus, said public health.

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Shahab said that transmission without close contact or with an asymptomatic person “is rare,” but public health is still looking to raise awareness about the virus.

He said it’s extremely important for people to know about transmission risk and visible symptoms to help keep the outbreak manageable.

“All of us should be aware of monkeypox symptoms right now, but especially if you think you’ve been in close contact,” said Shahab.

Communities at risk

Transmission so far has been reported in the LGBTQ2S+ and men who have sex with men (MSM) communities, which are currently considered to be at high risk for exposure to the virus.

People are advised to be especially cautious with anonymous sexual partners, and to be conscientious about monitoring for symptoms.

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“It’s very hard to let people know if you’ve had (anonymous) contact,” said Shahab. “It is advisable while this outbreak is happening to limit the number of partners and avoid having anonymous partners that are hard to contact.”

With risk of transmission rising, Shahab said that the province is making the monkeypox vaccine more available.

Vaccine eligibility expanded

Vaccine eligibility previously included only adult individuals who had already been in contact with monkeypox. Criteria will now expand to include individuals pre-exposure, who are considered to be at high risk.

“Having this more focused approach has really helped (other jurisdictions) get ahead of the outbreak,” said Shahab. “We hope that by taking this approach in Saskatchewan, we can try to avoid a quick or high surge of cases.”

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High risk individuals, according to public health, must be transgender, identify as two-spirit, bisexual, gay or MSM, and have either recently had a sexually transmitted infection, had or plan to have sexual contact with one or more partners within the last six months, or plan to travel to an area that is reporting monkeypox cases within the next three months.

The vaccine is currently delivered as one dose but could become a multi-dose immunization as public health follows recommendations made by the National Advisory Committee for Immunization.

Shahab said that when the federal government deployed 99,000 doses to provinces and territories, Saskatchewan was allotted 150 doses and has used seven to date, but more is on the way.

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“We have ordered additional vaccines now that we are offering pre-exposure prophylaxis (and) we will continue to do so on demand,” said Shahab.

Testing is important

People are strongly encouraged to contact HealthLine 811 with concerns about potential exposure, symptoms or vaccine questions, in order to facilitate testing.

“It is important to seek testing, exactly for the reason that we don’t want to miss cases,” said Shahab.

Testing volumes are currently low, said Shahab, but people are encouraged to seek testing if they have any concerns.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely, and we feel that so far that we haven’t missed any cases,” said Shahab. “We just want to do everything we can in that initial surge, and keep case numbers low.”

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Approximately 30,000 cases have been reported globally since the outbreak began in April, with around 1,000 cases identified in Canada, primarily in Quebec and Ontario but also in Alberta, B.C. and Saskatchewan.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that wastewater analysis may be utilized to track transmission rates for monkeypox, similar to COVID-19. World Health Organization declared the virus an international emergency on July 23.

Shahab that tool is not currently in use in Saskatchewan, as case numbers remain too low, but could be used if necessary.

“If there was concern we were missing transmission, wastewater would be useful,” said Shahab.

lkurz@postmedia.com

  1. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer, speaks at the Legislative Building in Regina on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health says there are no reported cases of monkeypox in the province and the risk of getting the disease remains low. However, it says if there were a case, vaccines could be offered to close high-risk contacts based on a public health assessment.

    Sask. offering monkeypox vaccines for close, high-risk contacts

  2. Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, Tuesday, January 12, 2021 in Ottawa. Dr. Theresa Tam says Canada's public health agency is looking to make the most of Canada's waste, and plans to sift through the sewage to test for and measure new health threats like monkeypox, polio, antimicrobial resistant organism and more.

    Canadian wastewater surveillance expanding to new public health threats: Tam

  3. This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP)

    Dyer: WHO’s monkeypox emergency serves as a reminder

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Regina Leader-Post has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe. 

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Canadian wastewater surveillance expanding to new public health threats: Tam – CP24

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Laura Osman, The Canadian Press


Published Friday, August 12, 2022 2:53PM EDT


Last Updated Friday, August 12, 2022 4:53PM EDT

OTTAWA – Plans are underway to sift through Canadian sewage to test for and measure monkeypox, polio and other potential health threats, the country’s chief public health officer said Friday.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, wastewater detection became a key way to track the spread of the virus, especially as free lab tests for individuals were phased out for all but a few in later waves.

Dr. Theresa Tam said the experts at the National Microbiology Lab have now discovered a promising approach to detect monkeypox in wastewater and will use the infrastructure developed during the pandemic to look for it.

“Moving forwards, it could form part of our monitoring of the disease activity going up and down across the country,” Tam said at a media briefing.

Tam said the method is complicated, but they’ve landed on something that can “probably” be used more broadly. How that monitoring fits into the Public Health Agency of Canada’s surveillance efforts on monkeypox is not yet clear.

The monkeypox disease comes from the same family of viruses that cause smallpox, which the World Health Organization declared eradicated around the globe in 1980.

Cases of monkeypox began to appear around the world in non-endemic countries in May.

Just this week the number of Canadian cases surpassed 1,000, though there are early signs the virus may now be spreading at a slower rate, Tam said.

The Public Health Agency of Canada also intends to start testing for polio as “soon as possible” after U.S. health officials found the polio virus in New York City’s wastewater.

The devastating virus was eradicated from Canada in 1994 and until very recently has not been found in the United States since 1993. Cases have now freshly emerged in Western nations with traditionally high rates of vaccinated people.

A positive case was discovered in New York last month.

The presence of the polio virus in the city’s wastewater suggests the virus is likely circulated locally, health authorities from the city, New York state and the U.S. federal government said Friday.

“We’re already starting to look at what the options are,” Tam said of monitoring for polio in Canada.

Polio tests are just now coming online in Ontario, said Eric Arts, a microbiology and immunology professor at Western University.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved how useful waste can be compared to person-by-person tests, he said, especially when it comes to early detection.

“Instead of testing hundreds of thousands of people kind of randomly to determine if they’re infected with a specific pathogen, or one that we don’t even know is circulating, you can just get a wastewater sample and test 100,000 people with one test,” he said.

Wastewater surveillance can be adapted for other things as well, she said. Even before the pandemic, Tam said the public health agency was looking at ways to scan for antimicrobial resistant organisms, or superbugs as they’re often called.

Wastewater detection is still imperfect though, Tam warned.

“You’re dealing with a slurry of many things with a lot of DNA, RNA, all sorts of things,” Tam said, putting it politely.

That slurry includes countless viruses and virus mutations. Some vaccines, like the oral vaccine for polio given in some countries that includes a live, attenuated virus, can also be confused with the real thing in a wastewater sample.

“It’s not terribly easy,” she said.

Different countries use different methods, Tam said, and even within Canada there’s a lot of innovation happening.

“I think one of the roles of our lab is to then look at the best methods and try and bring some standardization and guidance to that testing,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

– With files from Adina Bresge in Toronto and The Associated Press

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