B.C. has recorded 832 more cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, as well as five additional deaths from the disease.
The new cases bring B.C.’s rolling seven-day average to a new record high of 873 per day.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provided the latest updates during a live briefing on Thursday.
There have now been 100,880 cases of COVID-19 and 1,463 related deaths in B.C. since the pandemic began.
Currently there are 296 people who are hospitalized with the coronavirus, 79 of them in intensive care.
Details on active cases, recoveries and newly identified coronavirus variants of concern were released in a written statement Thursday evening.
B.C.’s active caseload has grown to 7,571, the highest number it has reached in 2021. The last time there were more active cases in the province was on Dec. 31.
The written statement also announced 90 new cases of variants of concern, leaving the province with a total of 2,643 that have been identified so far.
The vast majority of those – 2,214 – have been the B.1.1.7 variant commonly associated with the U.K. There have also been 50 cases of the B.1.351 variant associated with South Africa and 379 cases of the P.1 variant associated with Brazil.
A total of 192 variant cases are active in B.C. The rest of the people who have been infected with a coronavirus variant of concern are now considered recovered.
B.C. has administered another 31,569 doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 787,649. There have now been 700,255 first-doses of vaccine administered in the province, enough to vaccinate 13.6 per cent of residents.
Thursday’s update comes after a day on which B.C. set a record for new cases in a single day and surpassed the grim milestone of 100,000 total infections.
Henry acknowledged the milestone during her briefing and took the time as an opportunity to answer some questions she says she’s been asked frequently in recent days.
Among them were questions about the interval between vaccine doses and the “safety signal” that prompted the province to put the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on pause for residents under age 55.
The provincial health officer reiterated that the four-month timeline between doses will allow B.C. to provide a first dose to as many people as possible as quickly as possible, and added that researchers are still studying the effects of delaying the second dose for various lengths of time.
Some vaccines become more effective if the booster shot is delayed, Henry said, though she stressed that second doses in B.C. are on track to be offered sooner than the four-month maximum currently recommended.
“The second dose will be offered as soon as all eligible people in British Columbia have received their first dose, or at least been offered their first dose,” Henry said. “In most cases, that will mean less than four months.”
On the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been linked to very rare instances of blood clotting in other parts of the world, Henry reiterated that the vaccine is effective and still recommended for people 55 and up.
It’s use in younger people remains on hold while B.C. officials await updated guidance from Health Canada, which has forced the province to pause its plans to offer AstraZeneca to frontline workers and first responders.
“We’re going to need to regroup and we will come back early next week as soon as we have more information on how we’re going to move forward with that program,” Henry said.
With the Easter long weekend set to begin, Henry also addressed travel guidelines, saying travel remains risky and now is not the time to leave one’s local community.
“If you are in doubt at all this weekend, just don’t go,” she said. “A good guideline is to think about staying within the area where you would go for a day trip. If it requires an overnight stay, a vacation rental, then it is not a good idea right now.”
“We do have an end in sight,” the provincial health officer added. “All of this talk about vaccines and how well they are going to work in our communities is in sight, but it’s not here yet.”
– with files from CTV –
Exclusive-Canada’s Ontario to expand use of AstraZeneca COVID vaccine as epidemic rages
By Allison Martell
TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Ontario will begin offering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday to people turning 40 or older this year, according to a government source.
The change will broaden access to vaccines as a third wave of infections threatens to overwhelm hospitals in Canada‘s most-populous province, and should make it easier to use doses that in some cases have been accumulating at pharmacies.
The change will be announced on Monday and go into effect across the province on Tuesday, according to the source. The vaccine has already been distributed to pharmacies but currently can only be given to people turning 55 or older this year.
Ontario announced new public health measures on Friday, promising checkpoints at provincial borders, new police powers and closing outdoor amenities, while leaving many workplaces open. The measures were widely criticized by doctors and public health experts, and the province quickly reopened playgrounds and modified the new police powers.
On March 29, Health Canada said it would review reports of serious blood clots and bleeding in a small number of people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine in other countries, and an independent panel called the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) recommended that it only be given to people 55 and older. All provinces followed that advice.
But NACI’s recommendations are not binding. Last week, Health Canada, the country’s drug regulator, said it had reviewed all available evidence and would not restrict the use of the vaccine, because its benefits outweigh its potential risks. Health Canada said at the time that NACI was reviewing its recommendations.
On Sunday, NACI’s chair told Reuters that the panel would make a new recommendation on Tuesday.
Health Canada said regulators in the UK had estimated the risk of clots to be very small, roughly four in a million people who receive the vaccine. It also said the complication was treatable. Two people have developed it in Canada, and both are recovering.
Several other countries have limited the use of the vaccine to older people. Denmark has withdrawn the shot, and Norway said on Thursday it would take more time to decide whether to resume use.
Ontario reported 4,250 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The Ontario Hospital Association said 59 patients were admitted to intensive care on Saturday, bringing the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs to 737.
Health Canada says those who receive the vaccine should seek medical attention immediately if they experience shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent belly pain, neurological symptoms like severe headaches or blurred vision, or skin bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.
(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Diane Craft and Peter Cooney)
Trudeau mobilizes federal workers to battle COVID-19 in Toronto and rest of Ontario
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he would send federal healthcare workers to help Toronto and the province of Ontario battle a third wave of COVID-19 infections that has forced shutdowns of schools and businesses.
“We are mobilizing federal healthcare workers from across government departments to deploy on the front lines in Ontario and specifically the Greater Toronto area where the situation is most critical,” Trudeau said in a video posted on Twitter.
Other provinces, especially on the Atlantic coast, are working “to determine what human resources and equipment they could free up over the coming days,” Trudeau said, adding that the federal government would cover the costs of that help.
The government will also seek to boost rapid testing, especially for essential workers, Trudeau said.
The government of Ontario, Canada‘s most-populous province and industrial powerhouse, has moved schools online and announced more stringent public health measures on Friday, including shutting the provincial borders to non-essential travel.
On Saturday, federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair deployed two mobile health units to set up more hospital beds in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, and the prime minister said he stood ready to send the Red Cross to staff mobile vaccination clinics in Ontario if help is requested.
Canada‘s seven-day average of new infections was 8,669, the chief medical officer said on Sunday, a 26% increase compared with the previous seven days. Ontario reported 4,250 new cases on Sunday.
Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.
More than 48 million doses are to be delivered by the end of June, which is enough for all of Canada‘s population of some 38 million to receive at least one shot, with a total of 100 million doses expected by the end of September.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Cooney)
Canada has second case of rare blood clots after AstraZeneca vaccin
(Reuters) – Canada on Saturday reported a second case of rare blood clots with low platelets after immunization with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in a week, while it said it still recommended the use of the shot.
The person who experienced the very rare event has been treated and is recovering, Canada‘s health ministry said in a statement, adding that the person lives in the province of Alberta.
Based on the evidence available, Canada still maintains that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the potential risks, the statement said.
Canada health authorities “will continue to monitor the use of all COVID-19 vaccines closely and examine and assess any new safety concerns,” the statement said.
Canada reported a first blood clotting associated with the vaccine on Tuesday, and a day later, after a review, health authorities said they would not restrict use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
A separate advisory council had earlier recommended Canada stop offering the vaccine to people under 55. That panel is in the process of reviewing its advice.
Canada has been ramping up its vaccination campaign, but still has a smaller percentage of its population inoculated than dozens of other countries, including the United States and Britain.
Amid a spiking third wave of infections, Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, announced new public health restrictions on Friday, including closing the provinces borders to domestic travelers.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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