Experts from the World Health Organization praised China’s efforts to fight an outbreak of COVID-19 after returning from a fact-finding mission, but say the rest of the world isn’t prepared if the virus spreads.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, the Canadian head of the WHO-China joint mission on COVID-19, shared his team’s findings at a press conference Tuesday.
His big takeaway: the world isn’t ready for an outbreak. “But it can get ready very fast.”
Here’s what the team said they learned while in China.
1. The outbreak seems to have peaked in China
China’s efforts, which included quarantining millions of people, seem to have helped to get the outbreak under control, Aylward said. “It’s the unanimous assessment of the team that they have changed the course of this outbreak.
“What was a rapidly-escalating outbreak has plateaued and then come down faster than one would have expected if we had looked at the natural dynamics of an outbreak like this. And that’s striking.”
At a press conference Monday, WHO’s director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it appears as though the outbreak in China peaked between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 and “has been declining steadily since then.”
2. China’s actions may have prevented many COVID-19 cases
While he didn’t comment on the human rights issues that have been raised by China’s quarantines, Aylward believes that China has prevented huge numbers of cases of COVID-19, according to the WHO’s estimates.
“Hundreds of thousands of people in China did not get COVID-19 because of this aggressive response.”
By cutting back the number of cases in the epicentre of the outbreak, he said, China also likely slowed its spread to other countries.
“That was the other big thing we heard again and again from anyone in China was, ‘It’s our responsibility to do this for the world.’”
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3. It seems like there aren’t vast numbers of undetected cases
One of the big worries about this virus has been whether there are lots of asymptomatic, or “sub-clinical” cases — people with symptoms so mild they never see a doctor.
While this is good for these people, many experts worried that healthy-seeming people might unintentionally spread the disease.
Aylward said he didn’t see much evidence that this is happening.
Authorities in Wuhan have been going house to house to check people’s temperatures, he said. “They’re probably not missing a huge, huge amount.”
“With asymptomatics, it doesn’t look like that’s a big part of the picture. There was just no data that supports that.”
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It’s a new disease and authorities will have to do more testing to be sure, he said, but he doesn’t believe that there is a huge number of uncounted cases.
It looks like around 80 per cent of COVID-19 cases have mild symptoms, he said. About 13 per cent have severe symptoms, and six per cent of people are in critical condition.
4. The rest of the world needs to get ready
Even if it’s true that there aren’t a lot of undetected COVID-19 cases, Aylward thinks that countries around the world need to prepare for outbreaks.
Arguing about whether COVID-19 is a pandemic or not is beside the point, he said.
“Why don’t you look at, have you got 100 beds where you can isolate people if you have to? Have you got a wing of a hospital that you’re going to close off? Have you got 30 ventilators?”
The world is “simply not ready” right now, he said.
Aside from making sure they have the medical supplies and staff to deal with an outbreak, governments should even ramp up simple public health campaigns like handwashing, he said.
“Those things that we should be doing anyway should be at scale in countries because they will make a difference to the spread of a respiratory borne disease.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
COVID-19: Go-Vaxx mobile vaccination clinic to return to Haliburton County with 3 stops – Globalnews.ca
Ontario’s GO-VAXX mobile vaccination clinic is making three stops in Haliburton County in the coming weeks, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit announced Wednesday.
The retrofitted GO bus will provide first, second and boosters doses of COVID-19 vaccinations to any eligible residents, including doses for children ages 5-11. Moderna will be provided to individuals 30 and older, unless they have a documented allergy to Moderna.
All appointments must be booked in advance through the Provincial Booking System or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. Appointments can be booked starting at 8 a.m. the day before the clinic.
Clinics will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.:
- Saturday, Jan. 29 : A.J. LaRue Arena, 728 Mountain St., in Haliburton
- Saturday, Feb. 5: Lloyd Watson Community Centre, 2249 Loop Rd., in Wilberforce
- Saturday Feb. 12: A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton
“Being fully vaccinated with a booster dose has proven to be effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization against the Omicron variant,” said Doreen Boville, health promoter with the health unit. “To ensure anyone needing a vaccine can get one, appointments are necessary for a smooth rollout.”
Individuals are asked to bring their Ontario health card. If you do not have a health card or your health card is expired, bring another form of government photo ID such as a driver’s license, passport, Status card, or birth certificate.
The health unit has appointments available at COVID-19 vaccination clinics being held throughout the region. A list of dates and times is available on the health unit’s www.hkpr.on.ca. Residents are also encouraged to check with local pharmacies or their primary health care providers for more opportunities to get vaccinated.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the health unit reported 822 active cases within its jurisdiction including 35 in Haliburton County.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Prior COVID-19 infection offered protection against Delta variant, but vaccines still best shield against the virus, study says – The Globe and Mail
People who had previously been infected with COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were vaccinated alone, suggesting that natural immunity was a more potent shield than vaccines against that variant, California and New York health officials reported on Wednesday.
Protection against Delta was highest, however, among people who were both vaccinated and had survived a previous COVID infection, and lowest among those who had never been infected or vaccinated, the study found.
Nevertheless, vaccination remains the safest strategy against COVID-19, according to the report published in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The results do not apply to the Omicron variant of the virus, which now accounts for 99.5 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the United States.
“The evidence in this report does not change our vaccination recommendations,” Dr. Ben Silk of the CDC and one of the study’s authors told a media briefing.
“We know that vaccination is still the safest way to protect yourself against COVID-19,” he said.
For the study, health officials in California and New York gathered data from May through November, which included the period when the Delta variant was dominant.
It showed that people who survived a previous infection had lower rates of COVID-19 than people who were vaccinated alone.
That represented a change from the period when the Alpha variant was dominant, Silk told the briefing.
“Before the Delta variant, COVID-19 vaccination resulted in better protection against a subsequent infection than surviving a previous infection,” he said.
In the summer and fall of 2021, however, when Delta became the predominant circulating iteration of the virus in the United States, “surviving a previous infection now provided greater protection against the subsequent infection than vaccination,” he said.
But acquiring immunity through natural infection carries significant risks. According to the study, by November 30, 2021, roughly 130,781 residents of California and New York had died from COVID-19.
The analysis did not include information on the severity of initial infection, nor does it account for the full range of illness caused by prior infection.
One important limitation to the study was that it ended before administration of vaccine booster doses was widespread.
Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health, said in an email that the study “clearly shows” that vaccines provide the safest protection against COVID-19 and they offer added protection for those with prior infections.
“Outside of this study, recent data on the highly contagious Omicron variant shows that getting a booster provides significant additional protection against infection, hospitalization and death,” Pan said.
Silk said the CDC is studying the impact of vaccination, boosters and prior infection during the Omicron surge and expects to issue further reports when that data becomes available.
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Ontario sees ‘glimmers of hope’ over COVID, challenges remain
The Canadian province of Ontario is starting to see “glimmers of hope” as the rate of new hospitalisations caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus slows, but challenges remain, health minister Christine Elliott said on Wednesday.
Elliott’s comments were the latest from officials in Ontario and Quebec – which together account for more than 60% of Canada’s population – to suggest that the worst of the Omicron wave might soon be over.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford told a radio station on Tuesday that the province would make a positive announcement this week about removing COVID-19 related restrictions imposed last month.
“We’re starting to see glimmers of hope … beginning to see signs of stabilisation,” Elliott told a briefing, adding that a peak in new hospitalisations would follow a peak in new infections this month.
“But I do want to be clear, February will continue to pose challenges, especially for our hospitals as people continue to require care for COVID-19.”
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, at a separate briefing, also spoke about pressure on the healthcare system. Duclos repeated the need for more people to get vaccinated, especially children aged between 5 and 12.
“Though the risk of hospitalization is lower for Omicron, the sheer volume of cases will likely increase hospital admissions,” Duclos said.
The Pacific province of British Columbia, citing concerns for its hospitals, extended gathering restrictions until mid-February on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, editing by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Grant McCool)
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