VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It doesn’t look like B.C.’s COVID-19 restrictions are going to be relaxed anytime soon, and the province’s top doctor warns that there’s even a chance British Columbians will need to clamp down further.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says B.C. is holding the line on COVID-19, even though there’s been a slight uptick. However, the spread of variants continues to be top of mind for health officials.
“What I have been concerned about and what we’ve seen in other countries is that when variants of concern start building, that we can see rapid take off and rapid growth. And then we would need to consider is there other ways, other measures we need to take to stop those situations where transmission is happening,” she said Thursday.
“That’s why we’ve been paying attention to workplaces. Why we’re working with WorkSafeBC to get out there into workplaces. Why you’ve seen some of the measures we’ve been taking in places like Big White and Whistler to address the transmission events that are happening there. Paying attention to places that aren’t following adequate safety plans so that we can prevent that from happening,” Henry added.
She says the outcomes in other places around the world where variants of concern have taken hold make it clear she may have to consider stricter measures if that happens here.
With concerns that public health could be stretched thin as it was late last year, Henry admits a number of factors need to be taken into consideration before deciding whether public health orders can be eased or not.
“We have tried all along here in B.C. to keep as much open as we can safely and so keeping that balance means making sure we’re following the safety plans. Making sure we’re not making those exceptions for ourselves that lead to increased risks,” she added, pointing to a recent outbreak at a Port Moody pub which resulted in more than 300 people being affected.
So far, Henry says B.C. has identified 116 variant cases, many of them in the Fraser Health region. The province is only screening for the variants in about 75 to 80 per cent of overall positive COVID-19 tests.
The province is aiming to begin screening 100 per cent of positive COVID tests for variants next week.
B.C.’s top doctor says washing our hands, keeping distance from one another, and respecting restrictions in place are effective measures, even against the more transmissible versions of the coronavirus.
“The trains of transmission we need to stop as soon as we can,” she said.
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Canada allows Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12-15
(Corrects headline and lead to make clear that Canada was not the first nation as stated by Canadian officials, adds context from Pfizer in fourth paragraph)
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada is authorizing the use of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 12 to 15, the first doses to be allowed in the country for people that young, the federal health ministry said on Wednesday.
Supriya Sharma, a senior adviser at the Canadian federal health ministry, said the Pfizer vaccine, produced with German partner BioNTech SE, was safe and effective in the younger age group.
“We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she told reporters.
Sharma and a health ministry spokesman said Canada was the first country to grant such an approval, but a Canadian representative for Pfizer later said Algeria permitted use of the vaccine for this age group in April. The Canadian health ministry said it had no information about the discrepancy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to take a similar step “very soon,” U.S. health officials said.
Separately, authorities reported the third death of a Canadian from a rare blood clot condition after receiving AstraZeneca PLC’s’s COVID-19 vaccine. The man, who was in his sixties, lived in the Atlantic province of New Brunswick.
Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health in New Brunswick, said the province would continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Alberta reported a death from clotting on Tuesday and Quebec announced one on April 27.
“There will be rare cases where thrombosis will occur. However, the risks remain minimal compared to the risks, complications and potential consequences of COVID-19,” Russell told reporters.
Canada‘s federal government has bought tens of millions of doses of vaccines but critics complain the pace of inoculation is lagging due to bottlenecks in the 10 provinces, which are responsible for administering the doses.
Alberta will become the first province to offer COVID-19 vaccines to everyone aged 12 and over from May 10, Premier Jason Kenney said on Wednesday, a day after he introduced tighter public health measures to combat a third wave of the pandemic.
Alberta, home to Canada‘s oil patch, has the highest rate per capita of COVID-19 in the country, with nearly 24,000 active cases and 150 people in intensive care.
Around 20% of the 1,249,950 cases of COVID-19 in Canada have been reported in people under the age of 19. Canada has recorded 24,396 deaths.
(Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Nia Williams in Calgary;Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sonya Hepinstall)
Younger people filling up COVID-19 intensive care
By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA (Reuters) –COVID-19 infections continue to spread fast across the Americas as a result of relaxed prevention measures and intensive care units are filling up with younger people, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
In Brazil, mortality rates have doubled among those younger than 39, quadrupled among those in their 40s and tripled for those in their 50s since December, Carissa Etienne said.
Hospitalization rates among those under 39 years have increased by more than 70% in Chile and in some areas of the United States more people in their 20s are now being hospitalized for COVID-19 than people in their 70s.
“Despite all we learned about this virus in a year, our control efforts are not as strict, and prevention is not as efficient,” Etienne said in a virtual briefing from Washington.
“We are seeing what happens when these measures are relaxed: COVID spreads, cases mount, our health systems become overwhelmed and people die,” she said.
Canada continues to report significant jumps in infections in highly populated provinces such as Ontario as well as in less populated territories of the North and Yukon, home to remote and indigenous communities, according to PAHO.
Puerto Rico and Cuba remain significant drivers of COVID-19 cases in the Caribbean, which is facing a new surge of the virus, PAHO directors said.
Cases are rapidly accelerating in the Guyanas and across Argentina and Colombia, where weekly case counts are five times higher today than they were this time last year and hospitals are reaching capacity in large Colombian cities.
In Central America, Guatemala is seeing significant spikes in cases and Costa Rica is reporting record-high infections.
While vaccines are being rolled out as fast as possible, they are not a short-term solution because they are in short supply, said Etienne, the World Health Organization’s regional director.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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