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Better safe than sorry (Covid-19)

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Manitoba should wait a full incubation period after the holidays before it considers easing COVID-19 restrictions.

Doing so any earlier would be premature and could cost lives.

Manitoba’s current code-red restrictions are set to expire Jan. 8. With daily COVID-19 cases falling and thousands of vaccines expected to be administered this month, there may be a temptation to start rolling back public-health orders.

Everyone is tired of living like hermits, but that would be a mistake — at least until a full two weeks after Jan. 1.

Everyone is tired of living like hermits.

There’s little doubt many Manitobans visited family and friends outside their households over the holidays. The province announced 44 tickets were handed out to people who unlawfully gathered in private residences between Dec. 21 and 27 (up from 35 the previous week). Those are just the people who got caught. There were undoubtedly many more.

Some people also travelled outside the province over the holidays; there was a marked increase in flights arriving and departing around Christmas, including many from western provinces. The Pallister government refused to reinstate the 14-day self-isolation rule for people returning from western provinces after lifting it in June. That means those travellers did not have to self-isolate when they arrived in Manitoba. (There are already four identified flights from western provinces in late December that carried passengers who tested positive for COVID-19).

New Year’s celebrations were also high-risk, and it’s likely many Manitobans socialized with others outside their households on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

Household interactions continue to be one of the chief sources of transmission.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says COVID-19 symptoms can appear up to 14 days after infection. The vast majority (97.5 per cent) develop symptoms within 11.5 days. The province should, at least, extend current restrictions to Jan. 15.

COVID-19 case numbers have come down in recent weeks. That’s solid evidence the measures in place have been working. But it’s also due, in part, to a significant drop in daily testing. The test-positivity rate in Manitoba has not dipped below double digits since early November, which means there’s still plenty of virus circulating in the province. It was 10.7 per cent Monday, down only slightly from 11.5 per cent two weeks ago. The World Health Organization recommends a rate below five per cent before easing restrictions.

COVID-19 hot spot Alberta has a test-positivity rate of seven per cent.

Hospitalization rates in Manitoba are also stubbornly high. The number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 has dropped since early December, but has plateaued over the past two weeks. There were 340 COVID-19 patients in hospital Monday, virtually unchanged from 343 a week ago. The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU Monday (41) was up slightly from a week ago (37). There was a total of 113 patients in ICU Monday (157 per cent of normal capacity), up from 111 Thursday.

 

Those numbers are not sustainable.

Hospitalization rates and the test positivity need to come down further before any measures are relaxed, even after Jan. 15.

Premier Brian Pallister said last week there would “almost certainly” be an easing of restrictions in the new year. It was a vague statement without a timeline. However, it’s troubling he would even suggest it before the holiday data comes in.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the provincial chief public health officer, said Monday no decisions have been made whether restrictions will be eased after Jan. 8. He said Manitobans will get more information on that later in the week.

Lifting restrictions prematurely would be reckless. It could drive up case numbers and give the public a false sense of security. The combined impact of holiday celebrations and a new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 that originated in Britain (and is now in Canada) could make January the worst month yet.

Manitobans made a lot of sacrifices in recent weeks to flatten the COVID-19 curve and prevent hospitalizations from climbing further. It would be unforgivable if those gains were erased because of a hasty move to loosen restrictions.

tom.brodbeck@freepress.mb.ca

Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck
Columnist

Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

 

Source:- Winnipeg Free Press

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B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine supply temporarily ‘dramatically reduced’ – News 1130

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C. will be working with an “extremely limited” supply of COVID-19 vaccine for a short period of time, according to the provincial health officer.

Dr. Bonnie Heny explained Monday that the province received further information that the number of doses it thought it was receiving was “dramatically reduced.”

“We, right now, do not know how much, if any, vaccine we’ll be receiving the following two weeks in February,” she said.

RELATED: B.C. to use age as determining factor for remaining vaccine rollout

Because of the “extremely limited” supply, Henry said B.C. is temporarily delaying the second dose to a maximum of 42 days after the first.

“This means we can use what little supply we have right now to finish our long-term care home immunizations and to address the outbreaks that are happening in our hospitals and our communities,” she added.

Before these supply issues, the second dose was being given within  35 days from the first in B.C.

Shipments of the vaccine from Pfizer have been impacted due to upgrades at its facilities, so there aren’t any deliveries coming this week. It’s also a week Moderna vaccines aren’t arriving in B.C.

Henry assured the province will make up for the doses and provide the second shot to everyone who needs it “as soon as we possibly can.”

To date, 119,850 doses of the vaccine have been given to British Columbians.

This comes as the province reported 26 people died from the coronavirus over the weekend and 1,344 more people tested positive.

There is a COVID-19 outbreak at Nanaimo Regional General hospital, but Henry noted 11 outbreaks in other health and long-term care facilities are over.

“This brings a moment of happiness to us all and relief for many of the care providers and the families with loved ones in these facilities, and I think, it is a reflection, as well, of how important the immunization program that we’ve had in long-term care over these last few weeks is, and the difference that is going to make and continues to make.”

There are 29 active outbreaks in healthcare, and Henry noted the community outbreak at the Surrey Emergency Response Centre.

As for variants, Henry confirmed five cases of the one connected to the U.K. in the province, which were all either linked to travel or a close contact with a traveller.

There are three cases of the South African variant, all transmitted in the community.

“So they were not linked to travel, which is, of course, something we are concerned about,” Henry added.

Meanwhile, Henry reported six cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a rare syndrome related to COVID-19. The infected range from one to 15 years old and they have all either fully recovered or are recovering.

Nineteen other cases of children with symptoms of COVID-19 were investigated, but none of those turned out to be the virus.

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Provinces set back COVID-19 vaccinations as deliveries grind to halt – Peace Arch News – Peace Arch News

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Some provinces were forced to push back vaccination for health-care workers and vulnerable seniors on Monday as deliveries from a major manufacturer ground to a temporary halt.

Canada is not due to receive any Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this week as the company revamps its operations, and deliveries are expected to be slow for the next few weeks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stressed that the delay is only temporary and that Canada is expected to receive 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of March.

As Parliament resumed Monday, Trudeau faced a barrage of questions from MPs of all parties as they blasted the Liberal government for what they described as a botched approach to rolling out vaccines.

Both Trudeau and Procurement Minister Anita Anand repeated the government’s promise that by the end of September, all Canadians wishing to be vaccinated will have received their shots.

Trudeau added that the country is still receiving shipments of the Moderna vaccine.

READ MORE: B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after ‘disappointing’ exclusion from plan

Earlier Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said there is “tremendous pressure” on the global supply chain for vaccines that the government has tried to mitigate.

“We are working on this every single day, because we know how important vaccines are to Canadians, to first and foremost the lives of Canadians and also to our economy,” she told a news conference in Ottawa by video.

Despite the vaccine delay, some provinces continued to report encouraging drops in the number of new cases and hospitalizations.

Ontario reported fewer than 2,000 cases, as well as fewer people in hospital. It was a similar story in Quebec, where hospitalizations dropped for a sixth straight day.

Newfoundland and Labrador also reported no new cases of COVID-19 for a third straight day.

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There are now 34 confirmed cases of the B117 variant in Ontario and Toronto's top doctor says you should assume it is spreading – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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There are 34 confirmed cases of the B117 COVID variant in Ontario and officials are now acknowledging that the strain may not just be more contagious but could also cause “more severe illness” in some people as well.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams shared the latest data during a briefing on Monday afternoon. It is a big jump from last Thursday when officials were reporting just 15 cases of the so-called UK variant.

Of the 34 cases, 10 are in York Region, six are in Toronto, seven are in Simcoe, three are in Peel, three are in Durham and three are in Ottawa. Kingston and Midddlesex-London have also had single cases.

“The key issue is that with the aggressive nature of the UK variant in particular the reasons for being cautious and careful with masking and distancing are enhanced even further because it can be spread with breaches to those protocols in a very short period of time,” Williams warned. “We are going to have to be on our guard but the same measures that protect you from the other strain of COVID-18 will protect you from this one. But you have to do it consistently.”

Ontario has been screening positive samples from people who have returned from aboard for new variants as well as samples collected from large outbreaks.

Efforts, however, are now underway to conduct genomic sequencing on all of the positive samples from Jan. 20 to give officials a snapshot of how widely the variant might be circulating in Ontario but results are expected to take two to three weeks.

Speaking with reporters, Williams said that the variant was probably “moving around in Ontario” before it was discovered earlier this month and may now be “more prevalent than we think.”

For that reason, he said that a recent decline in case counts should be taken with somewhat of a “grain of salt” at this point as there remains a risk that transmission could ramp up again should the variant take hold.

“We don’t want to be casual and careless and open up too soon,” he said.

Just ‘assume’ variant is circulating de Villa

Officials have previously said that the B117 variant is at least 56 per cent more contagious but could be as high as 70 per cent more contagious.

At an earlier briefing on Monday afternoon, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said that residents should probably just “assume” that the variant is circulating widely at this point and act accordingly.

That, she said, means limiting your in-person contact with people outside of your household as much as possible.

“We can create barriers to variants spreading widely if we avoid situations where COVID-19 can spread,” she said. “You have heard before what I am going to say next. I hope you will take it to heart more than at any other time. This means keeping apart as much as possible and it means making as few exceptions for contact as we can.”

De Villa said that given the risk posed by the variant in congregate settings, Toronto Pubic Health has reached out to all long-term care homes, retirement homes and complex and continuing care facilities to get the to “review, audit and reinforce” their current infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures.

She said that there are also “heightened practices for case and contact management when there is reason to believe” a given case may involved the B117 variant.

“You know I am sympathetic to the sacrifices and to the strain of life in the COVID-19 pandemic but for now the time has passed for focussing on impositions, inconveniences or frustrations,” she said. “This current situation in the simplest terms is not good. For now we need to focus on things as they are and do everything we can to make sure that things don’t get worse.”

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