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Exercise keeps our brains healthy – but does cognitive decline lead to physical decline?

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Matthieu Boisgontier’s strategy for keeping fit is a little unorthodox: He buys a chocolate bar – then doesn’t eat it. By training himself to rein in his automatic impulses, he figures he’ll get better at resisting the lure of the couch and getting out the door for his daily half-hour run.

According to new research by Boisgontier, a neuroscientist and health researcher from France recently hired by the University of Ottawa, that strategy may have long-term implications for how his physical and mental capacities decline as he ages – but not necessarily in the way you’d expect.

For years now we’ve been hearing about the power of exercise to keep our brains healthy. Research in both animals and humans has shown that physical activity maintains blood flow to the brain and raises levels of growth factors that promote the formation of new neurons. A study from the Ontario Brain Institute estimated that people who are very physically active are almost 40 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

But Boisgontier and a colleague from the University of Geneva, Boris Cheval, believe that may be only half the story.

In 2018, they published a study that used EEG brain imaging to explore one of the great riddles of public health: why people fail to exercise regularly even when they know how beneficial it would be. By flashing images of people exercising or lounging in hammocks, they showed that it takes extra neural effort to resist the lure of being sedentary. In other words, we’re wired to be lazy.

Based on those findings, they began to wonder whether declining cognitive function might be a cause, rather than just a consequence, of age-related declines in physical activity.

To test this hypothesis, they analyzed data from more than 100,000 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 in 21 European countries, each of whom had completed cognitive assessments and reported their physical activity levels five times over a 12-year period. The results will be published in the June issue of the journal Health Psychology.

As expected, those with the lowest scores on the cognitive test also tended to get the least exercise. But the most interesting finding was how the scores changed over time: The inexorable declines in cognitive function generally preceded declines in physical activity, suggesting that the former contributed to the latter.

There was also evidence, albeit weaker, that physical declines are followed by cognitive declines. As a result, Boisgontier said, “our results support the idea that cognitive abilities and physical abilities are part of the same circle that can be either a virtuous one or a vicious one.”

The new results join a long-standing debate about the underlying causes of age-related decline, says Emilie Reas, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Diego. It’s possible, for example, that socioeconomic factors or lifestyle changes such as retirement could lead to both physical and cognitive decline in parallel.

“Even if cognitive impairment does limit physical activity, this doesn’t refute the fact that exercise is good for the brain,” she said. “This evidence is quite solid and shouldn’t change the advice to stay active throughout life, especially in older age.”

But if cognitive function itself is a risk factor in that potentially vicious cycle of decline, that suggests other possible counterattacks. Cheval stresses the importance of sustaining cognitively engaging activities such as socializing and reading and modifying the environment to make movement – taking the stairs rather than the elevator, say – a default option that doesn’t require extra cognitive effort.

Boisgontier, meanwhile, has used his don’t-eat-the-chocolate-bar strategy to ingrain the habit of a half-hour daily run. At first, convincing himself to lace up his shoes and get out the door took a lot of mental effort. But eventually, he said, it became automatic. “I don’t really need any brain resources to engage in this physical activity any more” – precisely, he hopes, what will make the habit stick as he gets older.

Alex Hutchinson is the author of Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. Follow him on Twitter @sweatscience.

Source: – The Globe and Mail

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Edited By Harry Miller

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COVID-19 in B.C.: Less than 5 per cent of cases are among fully vaccinated people, officials say – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
Just a small fraction of B.C.’s recent COVID-19 cases are among people who are fully vaccinated, health officials announced Tuesday.

During a morning news conference Tuesday, Dr. Bonnie Henry revealed that less than five per cent of COVID-19 cases are people who have received two vaccine doses. B.C.’s top doctor spoke alongside Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Penny Ballem.

“Ninety-six per cent are people who have received just one dose (or less) or, 78 per cent, are among people who have not been vaccinated at all,” Henry said, adding that data shows that people who have received two doses are “significantly less likely to be hospitalized or to have severe illness.”

“This compares to the high rate of COVID among unvaccinated but eligible people here in B.C.”

Data presented by Henry showed among 176 total people hospitalized because of COVID-19, about 137 people were completely unvaccinated. The median age of those hospitalized was 52, she said.

“This is why it is extremely important that we all get both doses of vaccine,” Henry said.

Ballem said according to data collected on July 23, 19.6 per cent of eligible British Columbians remain unvaccinated. Northern and Interior Health authorities have the highest rates of unvaccinated residents, with 32.5 and 26.2 per cent, respectively.

In presenting the data, officials said vaccine distribution must be convenient for residents and announced doses will soon be available at walk-in clinics.

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BC health officials announce 150 new COVID-19 cases | News – Daily Hive

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BC health officials announced 150 new test-positive COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of recorded cases in the province to 149,259.

In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said that there are 783 active cases of COVID-19 in the province.

Of the active cases, 44 individuals are currently hospitalized, 22 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.

New and total active cases, broken down by health region, are as follows:

  • Fraser Health: 32 new cases, 196 total active cases
  • Vancouver Coastal Health: 17 new cases, 122 total active cases
  • Interior Health: 95 new cases, 412 total active cases
  • Northern Health: Three new cases, 14 total active cases
  • Island Health: Three new cases, 35 total active cases
  • Outside of Canada: No new cases, four total active cases

There have been no new COVID-19-related deaths, which leaves a total of 1,768 deaths in British Columbia.

To date, 80.7% of all eligible people 12 and over have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In total, 6,637,241 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in BC.

There are two active outbreaks in BC. One is in long-term care at Holyrood Manor in Fraser Health, and the other is at Nelson Jubilee Manor in Interior Health.

146,700 people who tested positive have now recovered.

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Today’s coronavirus news: Tokyo reports highest numbers of new COVID-19 cases just days after Olympics begin; EU hits goal of at least one shot for 70% of adults – Toronto Star

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Tuesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

1:30 p.m. British Columbia has kicked off a new COVID-19 vaccination campaign to encourage as many people as possible over the next two weeks to get immunized.

The province says the new strategy gives those who aren’t vaccinated, and those who’ve waited at least seven weeks since their first shot, a chance to visit walk-in clinics across B.C.

A campaign on Aug. 4 called Walk-in Wednesday will make 20,000 doses available at clinics before a push later in the month and in September to target young people returning to school.

Recent statistics show that most new cases of COVID-19 have been among unvaccinated people in the province, with 61.3 per cent of eligible residents being fully immunized.

Data from the BC Centre of Disease Control shows that less than five per cent of COVID-19 cases from June 15 to July 15 were among fully vaccinated people.

During the same time period, 78 per cent of people hospitalized in B.C. with COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

1:10 p.m. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was expected to backpedal Tuesday on its masking guidelines and recommend that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging, a federal official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss details of the new policy. The CDC was expected to make an announcement later in the day.

The new guidance follows recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor mask mandates amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that have been especially bad in the South. The country is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

For much of the pandemic, the CDC advised Americans to wear masks outdoors if they were within 6 feet of one another.

Then in April, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to cover their faces unless they were in a big crowd of strangers. In May, the guidance was eased further for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues.

Subsequent CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at summer camps or at schools, either.

For months COVID cases, deaths and hospitalizations were falling steadily, but those trends began to change at the beginning of the summer as a mutated and more transmissible version of the coronavirus, the delta variant, began to spread widely, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates.

12:55 p.m. Ontario is reporting another 129 COVID-19 cases and five more deaths, according to its latest report released Tuesday morning.

Ontario has administered 92,035 vaccine doses since its last daily update, with 19,110,428 vaccines given in total as of 8 p.m. the previous night.

According to the Star’s vaccine tracker, 10,408,317 people in Ontario have received at least one shot. That works out to approximately 79.8 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 70.6 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The province says 8,702,111 people have completed their vaccinations, which means they’ve had both doses. That works out to approximately 66.8 per cent of the eligible population 12 years and older, and the equivalent of 59.1 per cent of the total population, including those not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Read the full story from the Star’s Urbi Khan

12:45 p.m. As businesses reopen across the country with increased capacity, many say they’re having trouble finding hourly workers — and some are blaming it on federal income supports like the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) or Employment Insurance, which they say have spoiled workers.

A July 25 tweet by CKNW reporter Janet Brown suggested restaurants and retailers are having a hard time hiring, and are blaming the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). CERB ended last September, replaced by a trio of recovery benefits and an amplified version of EI; however, the term CERB is often used in discussion of the current federal COVID-19 income supports.

The tweet was a divisive one, with some users chiming in to say that unemployed people are abusing the income supports, while others said the benefits saved them when they lost work during an uncertain time.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba

12:30 p.m. There are now enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada to fully vaccinate everyone who is eligible, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.

With more than 66 million doses delivered, there’s little excuse to skip getting a shot, Trudeau said during a campaign-style appearance in Moncton, N.B.

“I know everyone across the country is sick and tired of COVID-19, sick and tired of the restrictions that they have to go through, sick and tired of having to be careful and cautious when we just want to be with friends and be out there,” he said.

“Well, the best way to get back to normal quickly is to get vaccinated.”

The Liberal government had promised there would be enough vaccine on hand by the end of September to meet its target of being able to vaccinate every eligible Canadian. Twists and turns in the procurement promise had raised doubts that hitting the target would be possible.

Read the full story from the Star’s Stephanie Levitz

11:40 a.m. Border agents have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike action that could begin as early as Aug. 6 — three days before the Canadian government is set to open the door to fully vaccinated U.S. travellers.

The 9,000 Canada Border Services Agency employees have been without a contract for more than three years and gave their unions the new mandate through a strike vote tallied over the weekend after bargaining with management and Treasury Board reached a stalemate.

At issue are demands by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union for better protections of their members against what has been described as a toxic workplace culture, and greater pay parity with other law-enforcement agencies across Canada.

Read the full story from the Star’s Nicholas Keung

11:05 a.m. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging Canadians who still have not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine to roll up their sleeves, saying that the overwhelming majority of cases are in people who haven’t received their two shots.

Trudeau says only half of one per cent of cases being recorded are in fully vaccinated people.

The prime minister says the vaccines are safe, they have passed Canada’s world-class standard for medical approvals and they work.

He also notes they are available as Canada now has enough vaccines delivered to fully immunize everyone who is eligible for a shot, working out to over 66 million doses in total.

Trudeau says with enough doses for everyone, there is “no excuse” not to get a shot.

He made the remarks after touring a vaccine clinic in Moncton, N.B., and he is scheduled to make an announcement alongside the premier of Prince Edward Island later today.

10:20 a.m. Ontario is reporting 129 cases of COVID-19 and five deaths. Locally, there are 37 new cases in Toronto, 22 in Peel Region and 12 in Hamilton; over 13,600 tests completed.

More than 92,000 doses of vaccines were administered in the previous day, for a total of more than 19.1 million.

10:15 a.m. Prices for U.S. homes rose faster in May than they have in 17 years as surging demand for housing outstripped the supply.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, soared 17 per cent in May from a year earlier on top of a 15 per cent jump in April. The May increase was the biggest since August 2004.

The hottest markets were Phoenix (where prices surged 25.9 per cent), San Diego (24.7 per cent) and Seattle (23.4 per cent). All 20 cities reported faster year-over-year growth in May than they did in April.

The U.S. housing market has been hot. Many Americans, tired of being cooped up at home during the pandemic, have traded in apartments and small homes in city for bigger houses in the suburbs. The Federal Reserve’s easy money policies have also kept mortgage rates near historic lows, pushing up demand for housing.

9:25 a.m. Canada’s largest airport is no longer splitting arriving international passengers into different customs lines based on their vaccination status.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport announced last week it may be sorting travellers arriving from the U.S. or other international locations into vaccinated and partially or non-vaccinated queues.

But a spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority says the practice has been discontinued as of Monday.

Beverly MacDonald says in a statement that the airport has determined separating vaccinated and partially or non-vaccinated travellers into different customs lines “results in minimal operational efficiencies.”

She says entry requirements related to vaccination status will now be enforced once a passenger reaches a customs officer.

Fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents are now able to forgo a 14-day quarantine when arriving in Canada from abroad.

Full statement: As Government of Canada travel restrictions ease in a health-focused and measured way, Toronto Pearson is committed to testing measures that will prioritize passenger and employee health while also resulting in efficiencies in the airport journey. Toronto Pearson, in collaboration with government and other partners, has determined that separation of vaccinated and non/partially-vaccinated travellers in customs lines results in minimal operational efficiencies. As such, the practice will be ceased as of July 26, 2021, with entry requirements based on vaccination status being enforced once a passenger reaches a CBSA officer.

9:15 a.m. U.S. Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana, a critic of mask mandates and public health restrictions during the pandemic, said he, his wife and son have contracted the coronavirus.

He made the announcement on Facebook Sunday night. He said he and his wife had been infected last year, but this time around is much more difficult. He has not said whether he has been vaccinated.

“This episode is far more challenging. It has required all my devoted energy,” he said. “We are all under excellent care, and our prognosis is positive.”

Higgins is the second member of Congress to announce in the last week that they’d contracted the virus. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican who represents parts of southwest Florida, said July 19 that he had tested positive. Buchanan said he had been fully vaccinated and was experiencing mild symptoms.

8:30 a.m. Canadian cannabis users are doing a lot less puff, puff, pass during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people try to minimize their distance and contact with one another.

The shift away from sharing joints is pushing up pre-roll sales and encouraging companies to rethink product sizes, say members of the cannabis industry.

“We started to notice the shift that was going on back in the winter,” says Kelly Olsen, the vice-president of Canopy Growth Corp.’s global flower business.

“Consumers were no longer comfortable with sharing joints anymore… and the weight sizes that were available in the market were not really providing the optimal experience for them.

Research commissioned by the Smiths Falls, Ont. company revealed that the pre-roll joint category grew by 48 per cent across the entire market between January and May 2021.

A report from the Ontario Cannabis Store, the province’s pot distributor, shows almost $97 million of pre-rolls were sold between April 2020 and March 2021, up from $42.6 million between April 2019 and March 2020.

Part of that sales increase is attributable to a significant rise in the number of cannabis stores, but Canopy says Canadians who feel that traditional 0.5 gram joints are too big for them to enjoy in one sitting, and who worry about passing germs along with joints, are factors as well.

To address these new demands, Canopy recently started selling some smaller joints in larger packs.

Its Tweed Quickies now come in 10 packs of 0.35 gram joints in the Green Cush and Afghan Kush varietals.

Its Ace Valley Pinners are sold in 8 packs of 0.3 gram joints and available in the Kosher Kush (Indica), OG Melon (Sativa) and Great White Shark varietals.

Redecan and Pure Sunfarms also make 0.3 or 0.35 gram pre-rolls and offer them in packs of at least 10.

Demand for such products is high, says Mimi Lam.

7:51 a.m. Toronto’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is starting to pay off, with the overall rate of eligible fully vaccinated residents approaching 70 per cent. But several hard-hit neighbourhoods continue to lag, which could jeopardize the city’s chances of meeting thresholds to move past Step 3 of the province’s reopening road map.

While some of the most affluent neighbourhoods are at or approaching the threshold of 75 per cent of residents 12 and up fully vaccinated, gaps in vaccination rates between these and the city’s poorest neighbourhoods — in many cases double-digit differences — have community leaders stressing the need to redouble efforts.

“The real heavy lifting starts now,” said Safia Ahmed, executive director of Rexdale Community Health Centre, “getting to those pockets” of people who, for whatever reason, still haven’t received a first or second shot.

Read the full story from the Star’s May Warren and Kenyon Wallace

7:20 a.m. Thousands of foreigners have left Indonesia in recent weeks, airport records released Tuesday showed, apparently spurred by a brutal pandemic wave and a general shortage of vaccines, which have gone to high-priority groups first.

Indonesia now has the most confirmed daily cases in Asia, as infections and deaths have surged over the past month and India’s massive outbreak has waned. Infections peaked in mid-July, with the highest daily average reported at more than 50,000 new cases each day. Until mid-June, daily cases had been running at about 8,000.

Since early this month, nearly 19,000 foreign nationals have left through Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in the capital, Jakarta.

The exodus increased significantly in the past three days alone, accounting for nearly half of all individual departures this month, said Sam Fernando, who heads the immigration authority at the airport.

Japan’s ambassador to Indonesia, Kenji Kanasugi, said the difficulty of getting vaccines for foreign nationals has prompted some Japanese citizens to get vaccinated in their home country.

“Amid a pandemic situation that is very difficult for all of us, some Japanese citizens in Indonesia will temporarily return to Japan,” Kanasugi said on Instagram earlier this month.

Japanese and Chinese nationals made up the largest share of departures, with 2,962 and 2,219 individuals respectively, followed by 1,616 South Korean citizens. Airport figures also showed departures by 1,425 Americans, as well as 842 French, 705 Russian, 700 British, 615 German and 546 Saudi Arabian citizens.

6:30 a.m.: New home sales in the Greater Toronto Area in the first six months of 2021 are up 25 per cent over the 10-year average, totalling almost two thirds of all GTA new home sales in 2020.

According to the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the first half of 2021 saw 24,060 new home units sold. Data from Altus Group, BILD’s home market data source, shows that 3,860 units were sold in June, up four per cent from the 10-year average.

June 2021 saw new home sales in the GTA bounce back to 3,860, above the 3,632 in June 2019, after a dip in June 2020 below 2,000.

Read the full story from the Star’s Rosa Saba.

6:25 a.m.: She tried to stave off bankruptcy through multiple lockdowns in Ontario. What this salon owner’s experience tells us about COVID-19 and women’s work.

“What COVID Reveals” is the 2020-21 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy series on the COVID-19 crisis and inequality.

The series, by award-winning journalist Stephanie Nolen, tells the stories of people in Canada who were vulnerable to COVID-19, or made newly vulnerable by the virus, and how public policy shaped their pandemic experience.

Nolen followed working women, migrant workers and asylum seekers, and those who had no place to “just stay home” as the virus surged. Through the story of their pandemic year, she charts what COVID showed us, and what we’ve chosen to do about it.

You can read the first part of the series here.

6:25 a.m.: The United States served notice Monday that it will keep existing COVID-19 restrictions on international travel in place for now due to concerns about the surging infection rate because of the delta variant.

It was the latest sign that the White House is having to recalibrate its thinking around the coronavirus pandemic as the more infectious variant surges across the U.S. and a substantial chunk of the population resists vaccination.

It was also a reversal from the sentiment U.S. President Joe Biden voiced earlier this month when he said his administration was “in the process” of considering how soon the U.S. could lift the ban on European travel bound for the U.S. after the issue was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the restrictions would continue for now.

“Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appears likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” she said.

The rising cases also are causing the administration to take a closer look at policies on wearing masks.

6:23 a.m.: The UN’s deputy humanitarian chief is warning that the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting conflict-ridden and impoverished countries much worse this year than in 2020, with many facing higher caseloads and rising deaths.

Ramesh Rajasingham said in a closed briefing Monday to the U.N. Security Council that these surges are being fuelled by a lack of access to vaccines, the easing of public health measures, increased social mixing, and the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

In his briefing obtained by The Associated Press, Rajasingham says that so far in 2021 almost three-quarters of countries needing humanitarian aid have recorded more pandemic cases or deaths than in all of 2020. He adds that in over one-third of those countries “at least three times more cases or deaths have been recorded this year compared to last.”

6:22 a.m.: Hawaii’s Department of Health is recommending that masks be used in all indoor settings at schools and that social distancing be observed in classrooms when possible. Masks are recommended outdoors when there is crowding or prolonged close contact.

The department made the recommendations Monday in updated guidance for school officials before the Aug. 3 start of another school year during the pandemic.

The department also says schools should consider screening tests for all teachers and staff who have not been fully vaccinated. It further recommends screening for students who are not fully vaccinated for participation in sports and other activities with a higher risk of virus transmission.

6:22 a.m.: Australia’s second-most populous city is ending its fifth pandemic lockdown Tuesday as the Victoria state government declares it has beaten an outbreak of the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant for a second time.

The five-day lockdown in Melbourne and across Victoria will allow schools, pubs and restaurants to reopen. But people will not be allowed to have visitors in their homes for two more weeks.

Meanwhile, the city of Sydney remains in lockdown indefinitely after more than four weeks. Australia’s most populous city is where the delta outbreak began in mid-June when a limousine driver was infected while transporting a U.S. aircrew from the airport. The New South Wales state government reported a new daily high of 172 infections Tuesday.

South Australia state announced that its weeklong lockdown will end as planned Wednesday after no new cases were recorded Tuesday.

6:22 a.m.: The major eastern Chinese city of Nanjing recorded another 31 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, as authorities announced more than 1.5 billion doses of vaccine have been administered around the country.

The new cases bring Nanjing’s total to more than 106 over recent days. The virus circulating in the city has been identified as the delta variant, according to local officials.

The city has been carrying out mass testing and placed tens of thousands of people under lockdown. Along with near-universal indoor mask wearing, China has utilized such practices to largely contain the domestic spread of the virus.

China has also aggressively pursued vaccinations, with little word of noncompliance. The National Health Commission said 1.55 billion doses had been administered as of Sunday — exceeding the country’s population of 1.4 billion.

However, questions have been raised about the efficacy of Chinese-made vaccines, particularly the SinoPharm jab among older people.

That’s stirred concern for the dozens of countries that have given the Chinese company’s shots to their most vulnerable populations. Some countries now say they are prepared to provide a third shot to boost production of protective antibodies.

China on Tuesday also reported another 40 imported cases, almost half in Yunnan province along the border with Myanmar, which is facing a major outbreak.

China has 795 people currently in treatment for COVID-19. The death toll has stayed steady for months at 4,636.

6:21 a.m.: Fiji’s leader is urging people to get vaccinated as the island nation contends with a devastating outbreak of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Relative to its population of less than 1 million people, Fiji’s outbreak is currently among the worst in the world.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the nation’s mission was to vaccinate 80% of adults by the end of October. About 47% of Fijians have had at least one vaccination dose.

He said “lies, misinformation, and unholy insanity” about the vaccine were endangering people.

Fiji has reported a record 1,285 new cases in its latest daily update. It has reported 193 deaths since the outbreak began in April.

Fiji has also reported a further 101 deaths of COVID-19-positive patients that it’s not classifying as coronavirus deaths because the patients had underlying conditions. Before the April outbreak, Fiji had recorded just two COVID-19 deaths.

6:21 a.m.: Authorities in Thailand have began transporting some people who tested positive for the coronavirus from Bangkok to their hometowns for isolation and treatment to alleviate the burden on the capital’s overwhelmed medical system.

A train carrying more than 100 patients and medical workers in full protective gear left the city for the northeast. It will drop patients off in seven provinces, where they will be met by health officers and taken to hospitals.

Medical authorities in Bangkok said Monday that all ICU beds for COVID-19 patients at public hospitals were full and that some of the sick were being treated in emergency rooms. Officials said they have asked army medics to help out at civilian hospitals.

“We will continue this service until no COVID-19 patients who cannot get beds in Bangkok are left,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

He said buses, vans and even aircraft might be deployed to send people back to less badly affected provinces.

Thailand initially kept coronavirus cases in check but outbreaks have flared in recent months.

6:20 a.m.: Tokyo reported its highest number of new coronavirus infections on Tuesday with the Summer Olympics under way.

The Japanese capital hosting the Olympics reported 2,848 new COVID-19 cases, exceeding the earlier record of 2,520 cases set on Jan. 7.

The new confirmed cases brings Tokyo’s total to more than 200,000 since the pandemic began last year.

Tokyo is under its fourth state of emergency, which is to continue through the Olympics until just before the Paralympics start in late August.

Experts have warned that the more contagious Delta variant could cause a surge during the Olympics, which started Friday.

So far during the pandemic, Japan has kept its virus cases and deaths much lower than many other countries. As of Monday, it had reported 870,445 cases and 15,129 deaths nationwide since the start of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government has been criticized for what some say is prioritizing the Olympics over the nation’s health. His public support ratings have fallen to around 30 per cent in recent media surveys, and there is little festivity surrounding the Games.

6:20 a.m.: The British government is easing coronavirus quarantine rules for more essential workers — including prison guards, veterinarians and garbage collectors — in an attempt to ease staff shortages that are hobbling some sectors of the economy.

About 26 million Britons have downloaded a health service phone app that tells them to self-isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. With the U.K. recording tens of thousands of new virus cases a day, the system has led to acute staff shortages for restaurants and other businesses and led to gaps on some supermarket shelves.

The government said last week that food, transportation, border staff, police and firefighters could take daily tests instead of self-isolating. It said Tuesday it was expanding that system to include more jobs, including trash collectors, prison employees, veterinarians, tax collectors and defence workers.

The government said 2,000 sites would be set up to meet the increased demand for daily coronavirus tests.

One person “pinged” by the app was Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had to self-isolate after the government’s health minister tested positive. Johnson’s 10-day spell in isolation ended at midnight on Monday.

6:18 a.m.: The European Union’s chief executive says the 27-nation bloc has achieved its goal of providing at least one coronavirus vaccine shot to 70 per cent of all adults, but she’s urging people to protect themselves against the fast-spreading Delta variant.

The EU, home to around 450 million people, was widely criticized for the slow pace of its vaccine rollout earlier this year. But its executive branch, the European Commission, says that 57 per cent of adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday that “these figures put Europe among the world leaders” when it comes to vaccination rates.

Von der Leyen said “the catch-up process has been very successful,” but she warned against complacency given the well-established presence in Europe of the delta variant.

She said: “The delta variant is very dangerous. I therefore call on everyone — who has the opportunity — to be vaccinated. For their own health and to protect others.”

6:17 a.m.: British Columbia reported 267 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday that were diagnosed over the previous three days, for an average of 89 new infections per day.

A statement from the Health Ministry says 695 cases were active across the province, up from 603 at the last update on Friday.

One more person has died from COVID-19 in the Northern Health region, pushing B.C.’s death toll from the illness to 1,768.

There were 43 people in hospital, including 17 in intensive care.

The majority of the latest infections were diagnosed in the Interior Health region, where 342 or nearly half of B.C.’s active cases were located.

The province says 80.6 per cent of eligible B.C. residents aged 12 and up have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 61.3 per cent are fully vaccinated.

6:15 a.m.: Yukon reported 28 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday that had been diagnosed over the previous three days.

There were 90 active infections in the territory, which has recorded 513 new cases since June 1 out of the 579 that have been diagnosed since the pandemic began.

A statement from the territory says the latest cases are spread throughout Yukon.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Brendan Hanley says health officials are seeing clusters of cases in Watson Lake, a town in southeast Yukon near the boundary with B.C., and they’re “likely to see more.”

He says in a statement that all but one person was unvaccinated and while several couldn’t get the shot due to their age, “all others could have been protected.”

A rapid testing team is in Watson Lake until the end of the day on Tuesday and a vaccination clinic is planned in the community on Friday.

Yukon has reported six deaths linked to the illness since the start of the pandemic.

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