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EU countries expected to agree 9-month duration of COVID pass – sources

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European Union countries are expected to agree to limit to nine months the duration of COVID-19 certificates for travel around the bloc, three EU sources told Reuters, but some states are concerned that such a limit could hinder travel.

Separately, the EU executive proposed at an internal meeting with health experts from member states on Thursday to impose PCR tests on all incoming travellers from outside the bloc, two of the sources said, a step prompted by a lack of firm information so far on the risks posed by the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The EU introduced COVID-19 passes in July to facilitate travel for people who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, have recovered from the disease or have a negative PCR test.

As evidence increased about the waning protection from vaccines, in November the European Commission proposed a nine-month validity limit for COVID-19 passes from the time a person has received two doses (or one in the case of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine).

If applied, such a limit would mean that EU citizens wanting to travel freely – without tests or quarantine – next summer across the bloc would need a booster shot.

One EU official and one EU diplomat said EU governments were expected to reach a consensus on the nine-month limit as early as Friday after a preliminary discussion on Thursday, although one said talks could stretch into next week.

A third diplomat said there was general support for the nine-month limit, but some countries, especially in eastern Europe, were concerned about this denting the travel industry and free movement of people.

EU governments have repeatedly said a common approach is needed to avoid further disruption for the travel industry. However, they have introduced diverging rules.

France set a seven-month limit on the day the Commission proposed it should be nine months. The French rule is to apply from Jan. 15, whereas the Commission has proposed a Jan. 10 start.

A spokesman for the French Embassy at the EU had no immediate comment on the issue.

In Cyprus, the certificate is to last seven months, whereas in Greece it would expire after six months for older people.

EU officials said both countries were willing to change to a common EU limit.

TESTS ON ARRIVAL?

EU health experts also discussed on Thursday a Commission proposal for all travellers from outside the bloc to have to present a negative PCR test, even if vaccinated, two of the sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters. The Commission’s proposal is not public.

Health experts could not reach a consensus on the measure, one of the sources said, but talks were continuing. If agreed, the new measure could also pave the way for the possible lifting of curbs on southern African countries.

In line with many countries across the world, EU members agreed late in November to impose travel curbs on seven southern African nations. The variant, first detected in southern Africa and Hong Kong but now present in dozens of countries, is considered highly infectious.

EU diplomats will discuss the matter again at a meeting on Friday in Brussels.

On Tuesday, EU health ministers were cautious about lifting travel curbs, but the situation is evolving rapidly as new data on Omicron emerges.

 

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Patients with COVID in Fraser Health may now share hospital rooms with uninfected – Chilliwack Progress – Chilliwack Progress

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A policy introduced to hospital staff last Friday by Fraser Health means some COVID-19 positive patients can share rooms with fully-vaccinated patients who are not infected with the virus.

Black Press received a copy of the memo issued Jan. 14 to staff at Chilliwack General Hospital (CGH) announcing the revised recommendations “for COVID-19 patient placement in acute care settings.”

The memo states that due to evolving epidemiology of the Omicron variant, and that “this virus generally causes mild disease,” areas for COVID patients will be reserved for only those with significant respiratory symptoms.

“A single occupancy room… is the preferred accommodation for any patients with respiratory symptoms. If a single occupancy room is not available, accommodate the patient in a multi-bed room ensuring at least two metres of space from other beds.

“Place COVID-19 positive patients only with fully vaccinated roommates.”

Hospital staff are directed to follow Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) droplet precaution guidelines, and the memo made it clear that COVID-positive patients should not share a room with immunocompromised patients, patients with chronic cardiac or respiratory disease, newborns, or others with respiratory illnesses.

At a briefing Friday morning with Health Minister Adrian Dix and Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Black Press asked about the rationale behind this revised policy, and she made it clear it was not unique to CGH.

Henry said the increased number of people being admitted to hospitals means that space is at a premium, and this policy helps maximize space with additional precautions in place.

She said the type of COVID-positive patients who might be placed with a non-COVID patient are those who come to hospitals for other reasons, they are tested, and the positive result is considered “incidental” to the reason they are in hospital.

“That is an infection prevention control team decision made at a hospital by hospital, and actually room by room and ward by ward basis, depending on the needs in that facility.”

Dix added that yesterday there were 891 people hospitalized in the province with COVID-19, and the pre-Omicron record was 500.

“When you have a lot of people in the hospital, you have to manage within the space you have and ensure infection control stays high and that’s what our teams are doing across B.C.”


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COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, Jan. 21: weekly recap, 94 hospitalized, 601 new cases – Halifax Examiner

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Jump to sections in this article:
Overview
Vaccination
Testing

There are now now 94 people in hospital who were admitted because of COVID symptoms, 13 of whom are in ICU. Those 57 range in age from 0 to 100 years old, and the average age is 68.

Additionally, there are:
• 73 people admitted to hospital for other reasons but who tested positive for COVID during the admissions screening or who were admitted for COVID but no longer require specialized care
• 113 people in hospital who contracted COVID in the hospital outbreaks

The 94 people now hospitalized because of COVID have the following vaccination status:
The vaccination status of those 94 is:
• 11 (11.7%) have had 3 doses
• 60 (63.8%) have had 2 doses but not 3
• 4 (4.3%) have had 1 dose
• 19 (20.2%) are unvaccinated
Note that only 9.3% of the population is unvaccinated

My very rough calculation of the rate by vaccination status of those hospitalized (based on numbers of the population in each category two weeks ago) is as follows:
• (11) a rate of 6.1 per 100K with 3 doses
• (60) a rate of 9.8 per 100K with 2 doses (but not 3)
• (4) a rate of 5.7 per 100K with 1 dose only
• (19) a rate of 18.0 per 100k unvaccinated

Additionally, the province announced 601 new cases of COVID-19 today. The new cases are people who received a positive PCR test result from a Nova Scotia Health lab; it does not include people who tested positive using a take-home rapid (antigen) test.

By Nova Scotia Health zone, the new cases break down as:
• 269 Central
• 120 Eastern
• 49 Northern
• 163 Western

Public Health estimates that there are 5,241 active cases in the province; the actual number is undoubtedly much higher.

The graph above shows the weekly (Sat-Fri) number of new cases for the duration of the pandemic.

The graph above shows the number of weekly cases (green, left axis) and weekly deaths (red, right axis). If deaths lag three weeks behind cases, we may (nothing is certain) see 10-20 more deaths in the next couple of weeks.

The graph above shows the number of weekly cases (green, left axis) and the number hospitalized on Fridays (orange, right axis) for the duration of the pandemic.

Jail outbreak

“Active COVID-19 cases at the provincial jail in Burnside are down to 11,” reports Zane Woodford:

The Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility has had an outbreak since late-December, and Justice Department spokesperson Heather Fairbairn told the Halifax Examiner there have now been a total of 140 cases at the jail.

“As of Jan. 21, there are 11 active cases among those currently in custody at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility,” Fairbairn wrote in an email.

As has been the case throughout, according to Fairbairn, none of the prisoners is in hospital and there are no cases in the jail’s women’s unit.

Fairbairn said since January 1, five people have been approved for temporary absences or early release. The population at the jail, as of January 20, was 223. That means about 63% of prisoners at the facility have had COVID-19.

Hospital outbreaks

There are two new cases at ongoing hospital outbreaks, one each at:
• Cape Breton Regional Hospital for a total of fewer than 10 in that ward
• Victoria General for a total of fewer than 10


Vaccination

Vaccination data were not reported today “due to a technical issue.”

The graph above shows the vaccination progress as captured on Fridays through the pandemic, except Thursday for this week. The yellow line is people with at least one dose of vaccine The blue line is people with only one dose. The green line is people with two doses but not three. The grey line is people with three doses. The red line is 80% of the population.

Appointments for boosters are now open to people 30 and over for whom 168 days have passed since their second shot.

Vaccination appointments for people 5 years of age and older can be booked here.

People in rural areas who need transportation to a vaccination appointment should contact Rural Rides, which will get you there and back home for just $5. You need to book the ride 24 hours ahead of time.

There are many drop-in Pfizer vaccine clinics scheduled, starting next week, several for kids five years old and older.


Testing

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 3,975 PCR tests yesterday, with a positivity rate of 15.1%.

If you test positive with a rapid (antigen) test, you are assumed to definitely have COVID, and you and your household are to self-isolate as required.

But take-home rapid testing kits are no longer widely available.

Pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites:

Saturday
Halifax Central Library, 11am-6pm
Alderney Gate, 10am-2pm
Glace Bay Legion, 11am-3pm

Sunday
Halifax Central Library, 11am-6pm
Knights of Columbus (KOC) Hall (New Waterford), 11am-3pm

Monday
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Hubbards Lions Club, 11am-3pm

You can volunteer to work at the pop-up testing sites here or here. No medical experience is necessary.


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Mexican president has cardiac catheterization, health said to be good

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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador underwent a cardiac catheterization in hospital on Friday and was found to be in good health, the interior ministry said in a statement.

“In this procedure, the heart and the arteries of the president were found to be healthy and functioning appropriately,” the statement said.

Lopez Obrador, 68, who had a serious heart attack in 2013 and recently recovered from his second coronavirus infection, underwent the procedure as part of a check-up every six months that include lab tests, electrocardiograms, stress tests and CT scans, the government said.

The medical team said the latest results indicated the need for a cardiac catheterization, without providing further details on why they performed what they described as a 30-minute procedure.

The government said “no other type of intervention” was needed and that Lopez Obrador was in “perfect health.”

The procedure inserts a thin tube into a large blood vessel leading to the heart and can detect how well the heart is working.

Lopez Obrador said he had mild symptoms from both bouts of COVID-19. In the most recent case earlier this month, he went into isolation for a week before returning to public activities, including lengthy daily news conferences.

On his first day back, he praised honey, pain reliever paracetamol and VapoRub, a topical ointment popular in Mexico, for helping ease his symptoms.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon, Dave Graham and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by William Mallard)

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