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Canada will miss COVID-19 cases as testing systems become overwhelmed: experts – Globalnews.ca

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Daniel Bear would like to get a COVID-19 test.

“I know I have COVID,” the father from Toronto told Global News on Tuesday.

He’s taken five rapid tests since his nose started running nearly a week ago. At first, they were negative, he said. But on Sunday when his symptoms got worse, he took another, and it was positive. He’s had two more positive tests since.

Read more:

Ontario health units dealing with high COVID testing demand due to Omicron

Bear said he’d like to get a PCR test from a government testing centre because his daughter’s school won’t notify families who may have been exposed without a positive PCR test result.

“I don’t need a PCR test for vanity’s sake, I need a PCR test so that the school can notify other families that I was there for pick-up,” he said.

But, he wasn’t able to find an appointment until this upcoming Thursday, and he fears that might be too late to produce an accurate result. After hearing of his plight, he said, a private company sent him an at-home kit that he plans to take right away, though not everyone has that option.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Nova Scotia announces changes to testing strategy'



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COVID-19: Nova Scotia announces changes to testing strategy


COVID-19: Nova Scotia announces changes to testing strategy

Bear isn’t the only one having trouble finding a PCR test in Ontario, or elsewhere. And some experts warn that tests will have to be prioritized for high-risk groups as testing systems become overwhelmed – which will likely lead to inaccurate case counts.

“I think we’re in crisis,” said Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

“People cannot get PCR tests. The rapid tests are hard to find as well. So we’re at the stage where we’re probably rationing PCR tests to a large extent, by which I mean reserving them for health-care workers or people who need them for clinical diagnostic purposes.”

Testing demand

Ottawa Public Health has already warned residents that testing cannot keep up with demand, and people with symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 should self-isolate even if they can’t get tested.

Quebec’s health minister warned Monday that testing capacity is stretched thin in that province too – and asked that only people with symptoms seek a test. Labs have recently been processing around 40,000 tests a day, hitting a high of 46,830 on Dec. 15.

“It’s a record since the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s, unfortunately, our maximum capacity,” Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said. “Testing centres should not be a tool to get tested if you’re asymptomatic and you want to gather with your loved ones.”

Dube asked people to prioritize at-home rapid tests to avoid clogging laboratories.

Ontario’s chief public health officer Dr. Kieran Moore said Tuesday the province would soon announce further guidance on prioritizing PCR tests and using rapid antigen tests.

Data problems

When not everyone who wants a COVID-19 test can get one, it can wreak havoc on data and record-keeping, said Fahad Razak, a general internist at St. Michael’s Hospital, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, and a member of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

“We will probably in the next few days lose sight of where the infections are happening in the province,” he said. “What areas are the most concentrated things like high-risk exposures? So were you in a place where you exposed a lot of other people? All of these things become more difficult to do when you don’t have a reliable testing mechanism.”

He says daily case counts could soon be a “considerable underestimation” of the number of people infected, he said.

Deonandan agrees.

“Very soon we’re going to see a plateauing of cases and a reduction or stabilization of the reproduction number that’s going to be an artefact. It’s not going to be real. It’s going to be the result of limited testing,” he said.

Read more:

Rapid COVID-19 tests – When to take one, and what to do if it’s positive

Provinces might have scaled back their testing capacity during comparatively quieter times, and are now having trouble keeping up, he said. “We’ve never had great TTI capacity: test, trace and isolate capacity,” he said.

The other problem is Omicron itself, he said, and its ability to spread much faster than health systems can test for it.

“It’s crazy contagious. I’ve been saying that Delta is the most contagious respiratory virus we’ve ever seen in modern times. Omicron leaves Delta in the dust,” Deonandan said.

“It’s so contagious that everyone’s going to be exposed in a matter of weeks, everybody. So, you can’t test everybody in a matter of weeks.”


Click to play video: 'Confusion, frustration as rapid antigen tests demand soars across Canada'



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Confusion, frustration as rapid antigen tests demand soars across Canada


Confusion, frustration as rapid antigen tests demand soars across Canada

We have to slow the wave of infections somehow, Razak said.

“In the coming weeks, everyone in this province, in this country, is probably going to develop some immunity to Omicron, either by being vaccinated or getting sick,” he said.

Read more:

Boosters not enough to blunt Omicron wave, experts say: ‘There isn’t time’

“We can slow the wave and slowing the wave means the public health measures we’ve always talked about. So it’s restricted access to venues for only those who are vaccinated, ensuring good ventilation, wearing a mask, not going into a public setting if you’ve been sick, reducing the size of gatherings for the holidays,” he said.

“No single thing is a magic bullet, but everything together starts to reduce the exposure and the risk of the numbers. And it gives time for more vaccines to be delivered.”

In the meantime, if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 or are showing symptoms and you’re unable to quickly find a test, both Deonandan and Razak suggest you act cautiously and follow the advice of your local public health unit.

Symptoms of Omicron COVID-19 infection can include cough, fatigue and congestion or runny nose, according to the World Health Organization. If you have those, Deonandan says, stay home.

“We err on the side of caution. So if you’ve got symptoms, we assume that you’ve got the disease and we ask you to stay home and isolate until the symptoms abate. And if you’ve got rapid tests, we can use those as well. And that’s where we are,” he said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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National Gaming on Capital Hill

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This past January 13th, The US Supreme Court issued two rulings blocking an Occupational Safety and Health Administrations COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for employers who have 100 or more employees, while allowing a separate rule which applies to healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funds.

The 6-3 decision blocked OSHA and other organizations from imposing any such rule. While the OSHA made every effort to enforce temporary emergency standards in its massive organization, it seems the influence and legal pressure applied by both Labor and Corporations to end this attempt to have 84 million workers get COVID-19 vaccinations was too much for the administration.

The Supreme court directed organizations and corporations with more than 100 employees to develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with exceptions for employees that instead are required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face mask at work.

While many corporations and manufacturers did enforce OSHA rules and carry out the needed mass vaccinations, the problem arose that such an organization such as OSHA had never issued such a mandate, and Congress had declined to enact any measure similar to OSHA’s. What do we have here folks? A governmental organization trying to carry out what the Biden Administration has asked to be done in America. The vaccines are available, but a large portion of America remains unvaccinated.

Instead of issuing a Presidential Executive Order declaring an emergency, the Administration has directed a few organizations to do so that they can wait and see if such a mandate will be accepted and approved by the population, labor, and business sectors. Perhaps it is the way this is being done that is the problem for The Supreme court, or the Republican friendly conservative of the court simply outnumber the liberal members. Politics as usual. Ineffectual, unworkable politics where no matter the issue, the Republicans will block any Democratic Administration’s attempt to protect America.

A nation divided, even when the lives of many are at stake. American media makes the storming of the Capital on Jan 6th seem like an emergency, an insurrection of serious substance while the Republicans on the Capital, block in every way possible any attempt to save lives through public safety and health mandates. Remember how the Republican strategy to make Obama Administration seem ineffectual by blocking all legislative efforts? The same Republicans are repeating this strategy with the Biden Administration. A sports analogy whereby one blocks constantly until your opponent makes a mistake and fumbles. While the lives of millions are threatened by COVID-19 these Republicans play games with the nation. Americans are feeling stressed, hopeless, and fearful of their future and yet their elected officials cannot work together to accomplish anything, except perhaps giving themselves a wage increase. Have those on Capital Hill forgotten who they represent?

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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Health Canada expected to approve Pfizer's COVID-19 therapeutic today: sources – CBC News

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Health Canada is expected to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 therapeutic today for use in this country, sources told CBC News and Radio-Canada.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the health regulator’s chief medical adviser, will speak to the media at 11 a.m. ET. CBCNews.ca will carry her remarks live.

Pfizer’s Paxlovid, which is an antiviral prescribed by a doctor and administered in pill form, is designed to help the body fight off the SARS-CoV-2 virus, reduce symptoms from an infection and shorten the period of illness.

The product has been hailed as a pandemic “game changer” by some doctors because it could reduce hospitalizations and deaths among COVID-19 patients. An effective pill that’s easy to self-administer at home could relieve some of the pressure on the health-care system and change the trajectory of the pandemic, experts say.

After months-long clinical trials, Pfizer reported in November that Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by an impressive 89 per cent compared to a placebo in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19.

Canada has placed an order for an initial quantity of one million treatment courses. Some of that supply will start to arrive after Health Canada’s expected approval.

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N.Korea fires two ballistic missiles from Pyongyang airport, S.Korea says

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North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) on Monday from an airport in its capital city of Pyongyang, South Korea’s military reported, the fourth test https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/north-korea-used-railway-born-missile-fridays-test-kcna-2022-01-14 this month to demonstrate its expanding missile arsenal.

Japan also reported the launch, with chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno condemning it as a threat to peace and security.

In less than two weeks, nuclear-armed North Korea has conducted three other missile tests, an unusually rapid series of launches. It said two of them involved single “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after launch, while a test on Friday involved a pair of short-range ballistic missiles fired from train cars.

Monday’s launch appeared to involve two SRBMs fired east from Sunan Airfield in Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.

North Korea used the airport to test fire the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) in 2017, with leader Kim Jong Un in attendance.

The missiles fired on Monday travelled about 380 km (236 miles) to a maximum altitude of 42 km (26 miles), the JCS said in a statement.

Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missiles appeared to have landed in the ocean near North Korea’s east coast.

“It is self-evident that the aim of North Korea’s frequent missile launches is to improve their missile technology,” he told reporters.

“The repeated launching of North Korea’s ballistic missiles is a grave problem for the international community, including Japan,” Kishi added, noting that the launches were a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from all ballistic missile development.

The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command said it assessed that the launch did not pose an immediate threat to the United States or its allies, but “these missile launches highlight the destabilising impact of (North Korea’s ) illicit weapons programme”.

The pace of testing and the different launch sites suggests that North Korea has enough missiles to feel comfortable expending them on tests, training, and demonstrations, and helps reinforce its deterrent credibility by emphasizing the volume of its missile force, said Mason Richey, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul.

North Korea has not tested its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons since 2017, but after denuclearisation talks stalled in 2019, it began unveiling and testing a range of new SRBM designs.

Many of the latest SRBMs, including the hypersonic missiles, appear designed to evade missile defences. North Korea has also vowed to pursue tactical nuclear weapons, which could allow it to deploy nuclear warheads on SRBMs.

“Every tactical missile launch flaunts how little sanctions have constrained the Kim regime, and how the U.S. … has failed to make North Korea pay a sufficient cost for short-range missile programme development,” Richey said.

‘ISOLATING AND STIFLING’

The latest launches have drawn both condemnation and an appeal for dialogue from a U.S. administration that has imposed new sanctions over North Korean missile launches and is pushing for more.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration imposed its first new sanctions on Pyongyang on Wednesday, and called on the U.N. Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities. It also repeated calls for North Korea to return to talks aimed at reducing tension and persuading it to surrender its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea has defended the missile tests as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused the United States of intentionally intensifying confrontation with new sanctions.

In a statement before Friday’s missile tests, the North Korean foreign ministry said that although the United States might talk of diplomacy and dialogue, its actions showed it was still engrossed in its policy of “isolating and stifling” North Korea.

South Korea’s national security council held an emergency meeting after Monday’s test, with members stressing that “above all else, it is essential to start dialogue as soon as possible in order for the situation on the Korean Peninsula to not become more strained and to restore stability”, the presidential Blue House said in a statement.

The launches came as North Korea, more isolated than ever under self-imposed border closures aimed at preventing a COVID-19 pandemic, appeared to be preparing to open at least some trade across its land border with China.

Chinese brokers said they expect the resumption of regular trade with North Korea soon after a North Korean train pulled into a Chinese border town on Sunday in the first such crossing since anti-coronavirus lockdowns began in 2020.

Zhao Tong, a Beijing-based nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said North Korea had few reasons to hold back its missile development.

Leader Kim appeared to have little hope of a breakthrough with the United States, and China’s sympathy for North Korea and antipathy towards the United States could encourage North Korea to think that China was unlikely to support any effort by the international community to censure it for the tests, he added.

“North Korea may think this is a safe time to advance its missile development,” Zhao said.

Last week, China criticised the new U.S. sanctions but also called on all sides to act prudently and engage in dialogue to reduce tensions.

China says it enforces existing international sanctions on North Korea, but has joined with Russia to urge https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/china-russia-revive-push-lift-un-sanctions-north-korea-2021-11-01 the U.N. Security Council to ease the measures, saying they hurt the civilian population.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Elaine Lies and Sakura Murakami in Tokyo; and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Neil Fullick and Gerry Doyle)

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