While B.C.’s top doctor hinted at an easing of the COVID-19 restrictions at end of this month, she says if things are eased too quickly, it could lead to an increase in cases in the province.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says it is why the current case counts, outbreaks, as well as the spread of so-called variants of concern will be closely watched in the weeks ahead.
“We are slowly coming down but we are still in the 400 cases a day range which is a lot. And its a lot in some areas of the province, and we know if we start mixing again, if we start coming together again, if we start moving around in the province, that that can take off,” she said. “That’s our biggest concern right and the reason why we have kept the restrictions as they are.”
“If we get to that low enough level, as soon as we get there, there are somethings that we need to do and that involves youth sports, it involves religious services and faith services, it involves us being able to expand our social connections in a limited way again, and that is what I’m looking forward to as soon as we can.”
New modelling data presented last Friday shows that an increase in contacts to even 60 per cent of normal could result in explosive growth in cases as many as 1,000 per day by mid-March.
Henry said B.C. residents are currently at around 40 to 50 per cent of normal contact.
“Even if we slip a little bit, the potential for transmission goes up, and this is what is concerning for us right now,” she added, noting that while the restrictions may seem unfair to some people, B.C. hasn’t had to bring in full lockdown unlike Ontario and Quebec.
“And we’ve managed to keep that balance and now more than ever, its really critical that we keep children in school safely, that we keep our work places and our shops open in a way that is safe so that we can keep our health system protected.”
Like Dr. Henry, Canada’s top doctor says while it’s normal for variants to emerge as viruses continuously evolve, the new COVID-19 variants are a concern.
Dr. Theresa Tam says it is why provinces must tread carefully when it comes to reopening businesses in the coming days and weeks.
“This is not the moment to release everything in terms of public health measures,” Dr. Tam said today. “I think provinces and territories of course are making the individual decisions based on their own context but all must do it with extreme cautiousness.”
Tam says with 355 cases of the UK variant (B.1.1.7), 25 of the South Africa variant (B.1.351), and now one case of the variant that originated in Brazil (P.1) in the country, the risk is very clear. As of yesterday, there were 40 cases of the variants of concern in B.C., 25 of the UK variant and 15 of the South African variant.
“Right now, our measures are working. This means doing everything that we’ve been doing but giving it the best we can give at all times. This simple rule can help us limit the spread of more transmissible variants while vaccine programs get underway,” Tam said.
“Aim for the fewest interactions with the fewest number of people for the shortest time at the greatest distance possible.”
Last week, Dr. Henry also noted that she is concerned about a variant of the coronavirus in Southern California, which is believed to have started in Los Angeles.
– With files from The Canadian Press
Ontario reports fewest number of coronavirus-related deaths in a single day since late October – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Ontario logged just over 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 today and six more virus-related deaths, the lowest single-day death toll reported since late October.
Ontario health officials confirmed 1,023 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus on Monday, down from 1,062 on Sunday and 1,185 on Saturday. Today’s case count is also lower than the 1,058 infections logged one week ago.
Six new virus-related deaths were confirmed today, the lowest single-day death toll reported since Oct. 28, when just five new deaths were logged in the province.
The rolling seven-day average of new deaths now sits at 16, down from 24 at this point last week.
Just over 35,000 tests were processed over the past 24 hours with the Ministry of Health reporting a provincewide positivity rate of 3.1 per cent today, down from 3.3 per cent last Monday.
The rolling seven-day average of new infections is now 1,099, up from 1,045 last week.
According to the province, there are now 659 patients infected with COVID-19 who are receiving treatment in hospital, up from 646 seven days ago.
The number of patients in intensive care is now 280, down from 289 on Sunday but unchanged from last Monday.
It should be noted that hospitalization data is less reliable early in the week due to gaps in reporting from some hospitals in the province.
The number of active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario is now 10,570, up from 10,335 last Monday. Of the new cases reported today, 280 are in Toronto, 182 are in Peel Region, and 72 are in Ottawa.
New restrictions imposed in 2 Ontario regions
The Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka public health units are under new restrictions starting today following a surge in COVID-19 infections in both regions. The province activated its so-called “emergency brake” last week to place both public health units into the grey, or “lockdown,” category of its colour-coded reopening framework.
The move forced restaurants to shut down in-person dining once again and close gyms, barbershops, and hair salons.
The rise in cases in those regions has been partially attributed to the circulation of more transmissible COVID-19 variants. The Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit is reporting a total of nearly 200 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom. This accounts for more than a third of all confirmed cases involving a variant of concern across Ontario.
The province reported another seven cases of the B.1.1.7 variant on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 535. There are a total of 27 confirmed B.1.351 variant cases in Ontario along with three of the P.1 variant of concern.
Thousands of additional cases have screened positive for a variant of concern but have not yet undergone full genome sequencing. The province has said it is only a matter of time before the B.1.1.7 variant becomes the dominant strain in Ontario.
The province’s continues to roll out vaccine doses as part of Phase 1 of its COVID-19 vaccination program and starting today, multiple regions of Ontario, including Hamilton and York Region, began inoculating members of the general population over the age of 80. Ontario has administered a total of 704,695 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to date and 263,214 people have received two doses for full immunization.
The numbers used in this story are found in the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any city or region may differ slightly from what is reported by the province, because local units report figures at different times.
Coronavirus: Latest developments in the Greater Toronto Area on March 1 – Global News
Here are the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in the Greater Toronto Area for Monday.
Toronto’s Porter Airlines sets new tentative reopening date of May 19
Toronto’s Porter Airlines has set a new tentative reopening date again of May 19 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The airline suspended its operations in March 2020 due to COVID-19 and the restart date has since been pushed several times. The last tentative date was March 29.
Status of cases in the GTA
Ontario reported a total of 1,023 new coronavirus cases on Monday.
- 280 were in Toronto
- 182 were in Peel Region
- 47 were in York Region
- 34 were in Durham Region
- 39 were in Halton Region
Ontario reports more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases, 6 more deaths
Ontario is reporting 1,023 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 301,839.
The death toll in the province has risen to 6,986 as six more virus-related fatalities were reported which is the lowest single-day increase in deaths since the end of October.
Resolved cases increased by 939 from the previous day. The government said 35,015 tests were processed in the last 24 hours
Cases, deaths and outbreaks in Ontario long-term care homes
According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there have been 3,744 deaths reported among residents and patients in long-term care homes across Ontario which is unchanged from yesterday. Eleven virus-related deaths in total have been reported among staff.
There are 106 current outbreaks in homes, which is unchanged from the previous day.
The ministry also indicated there are currently 80 active cases among long-term care residents and 179 active cases among staff — cases for both have stayed the same in the last 24 hours.
Cases among students and staff at Ontario schools, child care centres
Meanwhile, government figures show there have been a total of 8,563 school-related COVID-19 cases in Ontario to date. This is an increase of 116 more cases in the last day — 99 student cases, 15 staff cases and two were not identified.
The COVID-19 cases are currently from 530 out of 4,828 schools in the province. Twenty schools in Ontario are currently closed as a result of positive cases, the government indicated.
There have been a total of 2,675 confirmed cases within child care centres and homes — an increase of 13 (seven new child cases and six staff cases). Out of 5,264 child care centres in Ontario, 139 currently have cases and 21 centres are closed.
COVID-19 pandemic zaps electricity usage in Ontario as people stay home
Demand for electricity in Ontario last year fell to levels rarely seen in decades amid shifts in usage patterns caused by pandemic measures, new data show.
The decline came despite a hot summer that had people rushing to crank up the air conditioning at home, the province’s power management agency said.
In all, Ontario used 132.2 terawatt-hours of power in 2020, a decline of 2.9 per cent from 2019.
NOTE: This story will be updated throughout the day.
— With files from The Canadian Press.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
India giving COVID-19 vaccines to more people as cases rise – Kamsack Times
NEW DELHI — India is expanding its coronavirus vaccination drive beyond health care and front-line workers, offering the shots to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk. Among the first to receive a vaccine on Monday was Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Those now eligible include anyone older than 60, as well as those over 45 who have ailments such as heart disease or diabetes that make them vulnerable to serious COVID-19 illness. The shots will be given for free at government hospitals and will also be sold at over 10,000 private hospitals at a fixed price of 250 rupees, or $3.40, per shot.
But the rollout of one of the world’s largest vaccination drives has been sluggish. Amid signs of hesitancy among the first groups offered the vaccine, Modi, who is 70, got a shot at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science. He received the vaccine produced by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech — which has been met with particular skepticism. He appealed for all to get vaccinated, tweeting afterward, “together, let us make India COVID-19 free!”
The drive, which began in January in the country of 1.4 billion people, has recently taken on even more urgency, since new infections have begun to increase again after months of consistent decline, and scientists have detected worrisome variants of the virus that they fear could hasten infections or render vaccines or treatments less useful.
Scores of elderly people started lining up outside private hospitals on Monday morning. Sunita Kapoor was among them, waiting for a vaccine with her husband. She said that they had been staying at home and not meeting people for months to stay safe from the virus — and were looking forward to being able to socialize a bit more. “We are excited,” said Kapoor, 63.
Many said that they had struggled with the online system for registering and then waited in line for hours before receiving the vaccine — problems that other countries have also experienced.
Dr. Giridhar R. Babu, who studies epidemics at the Public Health Foundation of India, said that long waits for the elderly were a concern since they could pick up infections, including COVID-19, at hospitals. “The unintended effect might be that they get COVID when they go to get the vaccine,” he said.
Even though India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs, things haven’t gone according to plan. Of the 10 million health care workers that the government had initially wanted to immunize, only 6.6 million have gotten the first shot of the two-dose vaccines and 2.4 million have gotten both. Of its estimated 20 million front-line workers, such as police or sanitation workers, only 5.1 million have been vaccinated so far.
Dr. Gagangdeep Kang, an infectious diseases expert at Christian Medical College Vellore in southern India, said the hesitancy by health workers highlights the paucity of information available about the vaccines. If health workers are reticent, “you seriously think that the common public is going to walk up for the vaccine?” she said.
Vaccinating more people quickly is a major priority for India, especially now that infections are rising again. The country has recorded more than 11 million cases, second in the world behind the United States, and over 157,000 deaths. The government had set a target of immunizing 300 million people, nearly the total U.S. population, by August.
The spike in infections in India is most pronounced in the western state of Maharashtra, where the number of active cases has nearly doubled to over 68,000 in the past two weeks. Lockdowns and other restrictions have been reimposed in some areas, and the state’s chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray, has warned that another wave of cases is “knocking on our door.”
Similar surges have been reported from states in all corners of the massive country: Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir in the north, Gujarat in the west, West Bengal in the east, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in central India, and Telangana in the south.
Top federal officials have asked authorities in those states to increase the speed of vaccinations in districts where cases are surging, and to track clusters of infections and monitor variants.
“There is a sense of urgency because of the mutants and because cases are going up,” said Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.
He said that the consistent dip in cases over months resulted in a “reduced threat perception,” leading to vaccine hesitancy. “The (vaccination) drive began when perception was that the worst was over, so people were more hesitant,” Reddy said.
Others have also pointed out that the reticence to get vaccinated was amplified, at least in part, by the government’s opaque decision making while greenlighting vaccines.
But experts say that allowing private hospitals to administer the shots — which began with this new phase of the campaign — should improve access. India’s health care system is patchy, and in many small cities people depend on private hospitals for their medical needs.
Still, problems remain. India had rolled out online software to keep track of the shots and recipients, but the system was prone to glitches and delays.
The federal government will decide which hospitals get which vaccine and people will not have a choice between the AstraZeneca vaccine or the Bharat Biotech one, confirmed Dr. Amar Fettle, the nodal COVID-19 officer for southern Indian state Kerala. The latter got the go-ahead by Indian regulators in January before trials testing the shot’s effectiveness at preventing illness were completed.
But opening up the campaign to private hospitals may allow the rich to “shop” around for places that are providing the AstraZeneca vaccine — an option that poorer people wouldn’t have, said Dr. Anant Bhan, who studies medical ethics.
India now hopes to quickly ramp up vaccinations. But the country will likely continue to see troughs and peaks of infections, and the key lesson is that the pandemic won’t end until enough people have been vaccinated for the spread of the virus to slow, said Jishnu Das, a health economist at Georgetown University who advises West Bengal state on the virus response.
“Don’t use a trough to declare success and say it’s over,” he said.
Associated Press journalists Krutika Pathi and Rishabh Jain contributed to this report.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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