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Coronavirus: What's happening around the world on Friday –



The latest:

  • WHO officials arrive in Beijing to investigate origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • United Kingdom quarantine measures for travellers ease.
  • Canada’s hardest-hit nursing homes lost 40% of residents in just 3 months of the pandemic.
  • Texas reports new high for hospitalizations for 10th consecutive day.

Two World Health Organization (WHO) experts headed to the Chinese capital on Friday to lay the groundwork for a larger mission to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

An animal health expert and an epidemiologist will meet Chinese counterparts in Beijing to set the “scope and terms of reference” for a WHO-led international mission aimed at learning how the virus jumped from animals to humans, a WHO statement said.

Scientists believe the virus may have originated in bats and was transmitted to another mammal such as a civet cat or an armadillo-like pangolin before being passed on to people.

A cluster of infections late last year focused initial attention on a fresh food market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, but the discovery of earlier cases suggests the animal-to-human jump may have happened elsewhere.

In an effort to block future outbreaks, China has cracked down on the trade in wildlife and closed some markets while enforcing strict containment measures that appear to have virtually stopped new local infections.

The WHO mission is politically sensitive, with the U.S. — the top funder of the UN body — moving to cut ties with it over allegations it mishandled the outbreak and is biased toward China.

“China took the lead in inviting WHO experts to investigate and discuss scientific virus tracing,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Friday.

More than 120 nations called for an investigation into the origins of the virus at the World Health Assembly in May. China has insisted that WHO lead the investigation and that it wait until the pandemic is brought under control. (Fabrice CoffriniAFP/Getty Images)

In contrast, he said, the U.S. “not only announced its withdrawal from the World Health Organization but also politicized the anti-epidemic issue and played a buck-passing game to shift responsibilities.”

More than 120 nations called for an investigation into the origins of the virus at the World Health Assembly in May. China has insisted that the WHO lead the investigation and that it wait until the pandemic is brought under control. The U.S., Brazil and India are continuing to see an increasing number of cases.

The last WHO coronavirus-specific mission to China was in February, after which the team’s leader, Canadian doctor Bruce Aylward, praised China’s containment efforts and information sharing. Canadian and American officials have since criticized him as being too lenient with regard to China’s role in helping stop the spread of the virus.

Privately, top WHO leaders complained in meetings in the week of Jan. 6 that China was not sharing enough data to assess how effectively the virus spread between people or what risk it posed to the rest of the world, costing valuable time.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 7 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 106,805 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 70,574 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,788.

Some public health and infectious disease experts are pressing for governments in Canada to shift to minimizing, not eradicating, COVID-19 while allowing society to resume functioning.

WATCH | Union calls for more protective equipment as mask shortage sidelines paramedics:

Jason Fraser, chair of the Ambulance Committee of Ontario for CUPE, is calling on the provincial government to make sure there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment available for paramedics. 0:48

The open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all premiers, dated July 6, says aiming to prevent or contain every case is not sustainable at this stage in the pandemic.

“We need to accept that COVID-19 will be with us for some time and to find ways to deal with it,” the 18 experts wrote.

The aim of lockdowns and physical distancing was to flatten the epidemic curve so that health-care systems wouldn’t be overwhelmed with too many cases at once, Neil Rau, an infectious disease physician and medical microbiologist at the University of Toronto said. Stamping out the virus is a different goalpost.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases was over 12.2 million as of 7 a.m. ET on Thursday. More than 555,000 people have died while almost 6.7 million have recovered. The U.S. and Brazil lead case numbers, with a combined total of more than 4.8 million.

Quarantine measures for those traveling to the United Kingdom from around 70 countries and overseas territories, including France and Italy, no longer apply from Friday in a boost to the ailing aviation and travel industries hit by COVID-19.

Those arriving from higher-risk countries will still have to self-quarantine for 14 days, but many popular destinations are now exempt, meaning millions of Britons are able to take summer holidays without having to stay at home when they return.

Kazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, said on Friday he may sack his cabinet if its second, two-week lockdown fails to curb the coronavirus outbreak in the oil-rich Central Asian nation.

People wear face mask in Hanoi. Vietnam has reported just 369 coronavirus cases, with no deaths. It has been 81 days without domestic transmission. (Linh Pham/Getty Images)

Kazakhstan, which imposed a new lockdown on Sunday, has confirmed almost 55,000 COVID-19 infections, including 264 deaths. The number of new cases rose on Thursday to a daily record of 1,962 before declining to 1,726 on Friday.

The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted about 31 million workers in Vietnam, with 900,000 out of work and nearly 18 million people receiving less income than before, a government agency said on Friday.

If solutions to drive business activity were not immediately implemented, there could be five million more people out of work by the end the year, the General Statistics Office (GSO) said.

Vietnam has reported just 369 coronavirus cases, with no deaths. It has been 81 days without domestic transmission, owing to successful programs to contain the virus.

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau on Friday announced the suspension of all schools from Monday after a spike in locally transmitted coronavirus cases that has fuelled fears of a renewed community spread in the city.

Schools in the Asian financial hub have been mostly shut since February, with many having switched to online learning and lessons by conference call. Many international schools are already on summer break.

The city reported 42 new cases on Thursday, of which 34 were locally transmitted, marking the second consecutive day of rising local infections.

More than 60,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported across the United States on Wednesday, the greatest single-day tally by any country since the virus emerged late last year in China. U.S. deaths rose by more than 900 for the second straight day.

Florida on Thursday announced nearly 9,000 new cases and 120 new coronavirus deaths, a record daily increase in lives lost. California and Texas, the most populous states, announced record increases in COVID deaths on Wednesday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the numbers next week may be even worse. The 105 new deaths reported Thursday makes this the deadliest week of the pandemic in what has rapidly become one of America’s virus hot zones. Texas reported a new high for hospitalizations for the 10th consecutive day.

Health care workers move a patient in the COVID-19 Unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston. Texas hospitals are being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, as the state reported a new high for hospitalizations for the 10th consecutive day. (Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images)

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Community case of COVID-19 linked to outbreak at Pembroke, Ont. high school – CTV Edmonton



A community contact connected to the COVID-19 outbreak at Fellowes High School in Pembroke has tested positive for novel coronavirus.

The Renfrew County and District Health Unit provided an update Saturday evening on the COVID-19 outbreak that closed the high school last Wednesday. Four staff members and a student at the school have tested positive for the virus.

The health unit says a community contact connected to the outbreak has tested positive for COVID-19.

“This is not a student or staff member at Fellowes High School, but has been identified through contact tracing,” said the health unit in a statement.

“They have been isolating since being identified as a high-risk contact.”

The Renfrew Country and District Health Unit says there have been no additional positive COVID-19 cases among students or staff at the school.

Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Cushman told CTV News Ottawa on Friday that he will know more information on Monday about when the school may reopen.

Fellowes High School in Pembroke was the first school in Ontario forced to close due to COVID-19 cases.

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COVID-19 roundup: Flu may be linked with coronavirus spread, RA drug could aid recovery | Daily Sabah – Daily Sabah



This week’s roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19 investigates the possible link between influenza outbreaks and the spread of the coronavirus, newly discovered proteins SARS-CoV-2 has that may be responsible for immune triggers and how other drugs can be utilized in the fight against this infectious disease.

Flu may be linked to coronavirus spread

Influenza outbreaks may be linked with the spread of COVID-19 infections, according to a European study.

The researchers created a mathematical model of transmission of the coronavirus in Belgium, Italy, Norway and Spain. It calculates that higher rates of influenza infections would be associated with increased coronavirus transmission in each of the countries, Matthieu Domenech de Celles of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin told Reuters. He said the estimates, published Wednesday on the medical website medRxiv in advance of peer review, align with earlier research.

In Italy, he noted, higher rates of flu vaccination have been linked with lower rates of death from COVID-19. Also, he said, a U.S. study of nearly 11,700 people tested for COVID-19 found that those who had flu vaccines were less likely to have a positive test.

None of these studies proves that flu vaccines affect the spread of COVID-19 or an individual’s risk for it, and other factors might explain the associations. Still, de Celles said, in advance of “the upcoming ‘twindemic'” of seasonal flu and COVID-19 in the northern hemisphere, “our results suggest the need to increase vaccination against influenza,” which may not only reduce the burden of influenza but also limit COVID-19 cases. (Here’s why you should consider having a flu shot this year)

Rheumatoid arthritis drug found to aid COVID-19 recovery

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients being treated with Gilead Sciences Inc.’s antiviral medication remdesivir recovered about a day sooner, on average, if they also received Eli Lilly and Co.’s rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib, clinical trial investigators found.

The trial, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), included more than 1,000 patients. The study also showed that compared to patients who did not receive the arthritis drug, those who did had better outcomes at 15 days after they enrolled in the trial. Based on the data, Lilly plans to discuss the potential for emergency-use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The company announced the results of the so-called ACTT-2 trial in a news release Monday. The results have not been formally published yet.

Experts tell when to test for COVID-19 antibodies

COVID-19 antibody tests – so-called serology tests – are widely available, but evidence of their usefulness is limited, the Infectious Diseases Society of America said as it unveiled new guidelines published earlier this month in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Antibodies to the coronavirus do not show up in the blood for quite a while after someone becomes infected, so serology tests are unreliable for diagnosing COVID-19 unless a patient has been sick for weeks, according to the guidelines.

The panel of authors, led by Dr. Kimberly Hanson of the University of Utah, listed three instances in which a test for antibodies to the coronavirus would be warranted. The first one is when doctors strongly suspect a patient has COVID-19 but gold-standard diagnostic PCR molecular tests that look for genetic components of the virus have been negative and at least two weeks have passed since the onset of symptoms.

The second is when a child has signs and symptoms of multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a life-threatening condition that has been linked with previous coronavirus infection. The third is when public health officials conduct so-called serosurveillance studies to track the proportion of the population that has been exposed to the virus.

Newly discovered coronavirus proteins may be immune triggers

Scientists have discovered 23 previously unknown proteins made by the coronavirus, including four that might be triggering patients’ immune system to act – or in some cases, to overreact – and cause severe illness.

For the most part, proteins in this new virus have been identified based on computational predictions and similarities with other coronaviruses. But these researchers took a different approach.

By tracking protein-producing “machines” in cells called ribosomes, they were able to map exactly which parts of the genetic code of the virus were being translated into proteins, study co-leader Yaara Finkel of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel told Reuters. Most of the newly discovered proteins probably have regulatory functions in the virus – that is, they help keep it active – except for the four “full-fledged proteins” that might be alerting the immune system to the presence of a foreign invader, Finkel and colleagues wrote in a study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

More work is required to determine the roles these proteins play in infection, Finkel said, but that knowledge could “lead to a better understanding of the progression of the infection, as well as better ways of either treating COVID-19 or preventing the dangerous immune over-response.”

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Health unit prepares for possible ‘twindemic’ – The North Bay Nugget



Symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 share a number of similarities

North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit
Nugget File Photo

When it comes to a possible “twindemic” – the arrival of flu season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – “all you can do is expect the worst, plan for the worst, and hope for the best.”

Dr. Jim Chirico, medical officer of health with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, says there are “so many unknowns” about what this year’s flu season will look like.

The flu season in the southern hemisphere, which can provide indications of what will happen in the northern hemisphere, was very mild this year, but Canadians can’t take that as a true indicator of what will happen here.

“Was it mild because of the COVID-19 measures that were in place?” Chirico asks. “We don’t know. We don’t know how severe it might be.”

The flu normally starts to be felt in this region in the late fall, running until January. Canada has been weathering the COVID-19 pandemic since March, and there are no signs it will let up anytime soon. In fact, the number of cases across the country have been climbing over the past week.

Testing impact

Having two pandemics at the same time, Chirico says, can put more pressure on the health system as symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 share a number of similarities. That means the number of people seeking testing for COVID-19 could increase as the seasonal flu takes hold.

The flu, he says, affects children more, it appears, than COVID-19 does, but elderly residents are particularly susceptible to both.

Chirico advocates everyone possible get the flu vaccine when it arrives in the region. It helps reduce the possibility of contracting the flu and may reduce the severity of influenza, although it does not offer 100 per cent protection from contracting it.

“It protects not only you but those around you,” Chirico says. If we can reduce the number of flu cases, it will reduce the pressure on the health-care system.”

The health unit, he says, is working with primary health-care providers and pharmacies to make sure as many people who want the flu vaccine can get it. The health unit will be providing vaccination clinics, while the vaccine will also be available at doctors offices and at pharmacies.


Chirico notes that when the H1N1 flu was prevalent some years ago, the health unit was able to conduct “mass immunization clinics.

“So we have that experience” to fall back on and to prepare for the eventuality that it might be necessary again, he says.

“We do have plans in place to do that.”

Dr. Jim Chirico

He also believes that the measures put in place to protect against COVID-19 can help prevent a serious flu season.

“I really do believe those efforts will pay off. The same recommendations for COVID-19 will prevent the flu, as well.”

Those measures include wearing face masks, social distancing, regular washing or sanitizing of hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based rub, sneezing or coughing into your arm, not touching your eyes, nose or mouth, staying home if you feel unwell and, if you develop a fever, cough and difficulty breathing to seek medical attention.

‘Done very well’

“People have been very mindful” of following those measures, he says, and the North Bay-Parry Sound area has “done very, very well.

“I do believe all the efforts to reduce the impact of COVID will do as well with the flu because they are transmitted in the same way,” he says.

The region has reported a total of 39 positive COVID-19 cases since the middle of March. Thirty-seven of those cases have been resolved and one person is in self-isolation. One person has died of COVID-19 in the region.

Chirico also notes that there was “a very reduced number of cases” of influenza last year, compared to the previous four or five years.

The area has reported between 126 and 298 cases annually with “very little mortality” over those years, he says, although the number of total cases “is obviously likely more” because most people who get the flu don’t go for treatment.

According to JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, both influenza and COVID-19 can present with fever, chills, headache, cough, fatigue and myalgias – muscle aches and pain, which can involve ligaments, tendons and fascia, the soft tissues that connect muscles, bones and organs.

Influenza differs in that it also generally features nasal congestion and sore throat, while COVID-19 can include shortness of breath and loss of the senses of taste and smell.

Assessment centres

There are five COVID-19 assessment centres in the region. Appointments must be booked in advance.

The centres are located at:

• Hopital de Mattawa Hospital. Book an appointment by calling 705-744-5511 ext. 0

• North Bay Regional Health Centre. Book an appointment by calling 705-474-8600 ext 4110

• West Nipissing COVID-19 Assessment Centre, 219 O’Hara St., Sturgeon Falls. Book an appointment by calling 705-580-2186

• 75 Ann Street, Bracebridge. Book an appointment by calling 1-888-383-7009

• West Parry Sound COVID-19 Assessment Centre at 70 Joseph St., Parry Sound, Unit 105-106. Book an appointment by calling 705-746-4540 ext 5030

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