The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
10:19 a.m.: Ontario reporting 200 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and 284 cases on Thursday. The province is also reporting nine death Friday and 19 deaths on Thursday.
Locally, there are 41 new cases in the Region of Waterloo, 23 in Toronto, 21 in Peel Region and 18 in Grey Bruce on Friday. Nearly 25,200 tests were completed on July 1 and over 26,900 tests on June 30.
10:11 a.m. (Updated 11:19 a.m.): Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has received his second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Friday.
The prime minister’s itinerary shows he’s getting a shot of the Moderna mRNA vaccine at an Ottawa clinic.
His wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, got her second dose on Thursday.
The Trudeaus got their first doses in late April and received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Trudeau has said vaccinations are a path out of the pandemic and praised Canadians in his Canada Day message for getting their shots to help life return to normal.
The prime minister is also set to make an appearance at a vaccine clinic with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on Friday.
10:05 a.m.: All Ontario youth can move up their second COVID-19 vaccine doses next week.
The change takes effect on Monday at 8 a.m.
Youth aged 12 to 17 can move up their appointments through the provincial booking system, pharmacies or local public health units.
Vaccines are initially booked four months apart in the province but people now have the option of re-booking for an earlier date.
The province says it’s aiming to provide more protection against COVID-19 and allow for a safe return to school in the fall.
Youth are only eligible for doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
8:41 a.m.: Pakistan received 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine from the United States on Friday, easing pressure on Islamabad in overcoming the shortage of COVID-19 vaccines.
According to a U.S. embassy statement, the vaccines were delivered to the Pakistani people in partnership with the COVAX global vaccine initiative, UNICEF, and the government of Pakistan.
It says this donation was part of the 80 million doses the United States was sharing with the world, “delivering on our pledge to facilitate equitable global access to safe and effective vaccines, which are essential to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The latest development comes days after hundreds of Pakistani expatriate workers rallied in Islamabad, demanding they should be quickly vaccinated with the Moderna, Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines so they can travel abroad.
Pakistan has mostly relied on Chinese vaccines, but some Middle Eastern countries want travelers to produce a certificate to show they’ve received specific vaccines.
8:40 a.m.: Russian authorities reported a record-breaking 679 new coronavirus deaths on Friday, a fourth day in a row with the highest daily death toll in the pandemic.
No plans for a lockdown are being discussed, however, the Kremlin insisted.
The previous record, of 672 deaths, was registered on Thursday. Russia has struggled to cope with a surge in infections and deaths in recent weeks that comes amid slow vaccination rates.
Daily new infections have more than doubled over the past month, soaring from around 9,000 in early June to over 20,000 this week. On Friday, Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 23,218 new contagions. Moscow, its outlying region and St. Petersburg account for nearly half of all new cases.
Yet the authorities are not discussing a lockdown, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday. “No one wants any lockdowns,” Peskov told reporters during a daily conference call, admitting that the situation with coronavirus in a number of Russian regions is “tense.”
8:40 a.m.: The Vatican’s bioethics academy and the World Medical Association called Friday for an all-out effort to combat vaccine hesitancy and correct the “myths and disinformation” that are slowing the fight against the coronavirus.
In a joint statement, the groups said some vaccine reluctance in poorer countries is rooted in historical inequalities and suspicions of Western pharmaceutical companies. But they said “a more pernicious form” of hesitancy is being driven by fake news, myths and disinformation about vaccine safety, including among religious groups and some in the medical community.
They demanded that “all relevant stakeholders exhaust all efforts to … confront vaccine hesitancy by sending a clear message about the safety and necessity of vaccines and counteracting vaccine myths and disinformation.”
The statement was issued after a daylong webinar on vaccines sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life, the France-based World Medical Association, an international organization grouping national physicians associations and individual doctors, and the German Medical Association.
At a news conference Friday, representatives of the groups strongly rejected claims and questions about vaccine safety and ethics from reporters representing conservative and right-wing Catholic media organizations who complained that vaccine skeptics weren’t included among the speakers.
8:39 a.m.: Germany is recommending that all people who get a first shot of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine switch to a different type of vaccine for their second shot. The aim is to increase the speed and effectiveness of vaccinations as the more contagious delta variant spreads.
Health Minister Jens Spahn conferred with his colleagues from Germany’s 16 states on Friday, the day after the country’s standing committee on vaccination issued a draft recommendation. In a statement, the committee said that “according to current study results,” the immune response from a mixture of AstraZeneca with an mRNA vaccine was “significantly superior” to that from two doses of AstraZeneca.
It recommended that the second dose with an mRNA vaccine — Germany uses those made by BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna — be administered four weeks or more after the first AstraZeneca shot. That is much shorter than the nine to 12 weeks the committee recommends between two doses of AstraZeneca.
The committee, known by its German acronym STIKO, didn’t detail what studies its conclusion was based on. Germany’s disease control center noted that it was a draft, and that a final recommendation with more detail and sourcing will follow. Researchers have said that mixing vaccines is likely safe and effective, but are still gathering data to be sure.
6:57 a.m.: Banning all fans from the Tokyo Olympics is still an option with the games opening during a pandemic in just three weeks, Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo organizing committee, said Friday.
This would be a reversal of a decision spelled out 10 days ago by organizers to allow a limited number of local fans — up to 10,000 — to attend. Fans from abroad were banned months ago as too great a risk.
The possible about-face is being forced by rising new infections in Tokyo, the appearance of the rapidly spreading delta variant, and fears that the Olympics and Paralympics with 15,400 athletes and tens of thousands of others entering Japan could turn into a super-spreader event.
“The situation of infection changes and how it will be — it is still unclear,” Hashimoto said in a Friday briefing. “But from Tokyo 2020s perspective, we also include an option of not having spectators.”
Yet another decision on fans could be announced next week after a meeting of the International Olympic Committee, local organizers, the Japanese government, Tokyo metropolitan government officials, and the International Paralympic Committee.
The government’s top COVID-19 adviser, Dr. Shigeru Omi, has said repeatedly that the safest option is without any fans. And Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, suggested Friday that has been her preference too.
6:54 a.m.: The latest alarming coronavirus variant is exploiting low global vaccination rates and a rush to ease pandemic restrictions, adding new urgency to the drive to get more shots in arms and slow its supercharged spread.
The vaccines most used in Western countries still appear to offer strong protection against the highly contagious delta variant, first identified in India and now spreading in more than 90 other countries.
But the World Health Organization warned this week that the trifecta of easier-to-spread strains, insufficiently immunized populations and a drop in mask use and other public health measures before the virus is better contained will “delay the end of the pandemic.”
The delta variant is positioned to take full advantage of those weaknesses.
“Any suffering or death from COVID-19 is tragic. With vaccines available across the country, the suffering and loss we are now seeing is nearly entirely avoidable,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday in urging more Americans to roll up their sleeves ahead of the mutant’s spread.
Amid concerns about the variant, parts of Europe have reinstated travel quarantines, several Australian cities are in outbreak-sparked lockdowns — and just as Japan readies for the Olympics, some visiting athletes are infected. The mutation is causing worry even in countries with relatively successful immunization campaigns that nonetheless haven’t reached enough people to snuff out the virus.
6:53 a.m.: As the World Health Organization draws up plans for the next phase of its probe of how the coronavirus pandemic started, an increasing number of scientists say the U.N. agency it isn’t up to the task and shouldn’t be the one to investigate.
Numerous experts, some with strong ties to WHO, say that political tensions between the U.S. and China make it impossible for an investigation by the agency to find credible answers.
They say what’s needed is a broad, independent analysis closer to what happened in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The first part of a joint WHO-China study of how COVID-19 started concluded in March that the virus probably jumped to humans from animals and that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.” The next phase might try to examine the first human cases in more detail or pinpoint the animals responsible — possibly bats, perhaps by way of some intermediate creature.
But the idea that the pandemic somehow started in a laboratory — and perhaps involved an engineered virus — has gained traction recently, with President Joe Biden ordering a review of U.S. intelligence within 90 days to assess the possibility.
Earlier this month, WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said that the agency was working out the final details of the next phase of its probe and that because WHO works “by persuasion,” it lacks the power to compel China to co-operate.
6:52 a.m.: Argentine officials say they will study the possibility of combining two different COVID-19 vaccines due to the delayed arrival of Russia’s Sputnik V for many who already received a first dose.
Buenos Aires city Health Minister Fernán Quirós tells Radio Mitre that officials would choose a random sample of potential volunteers to receive a second dose of vaccines made by AstraZeneca or China’s Sinopharm, or wait for a second shot of Sputnik likely starting in mid-August.
Several other countries have tried mixing vaccines due to distribution delays or safety concerns.
Some 70,000 people in Buenos Aires got an initial shot of Sputnik V three months ago and are still waiting a second dose. The number is about 300,000 nationwide.
The country has seen a renewed wave of infections at the start of the Southern Hemisphere winter.
6:51 a.m.: South Korea has reported 826 new cases of the coronavirus, its biggest daily jump in about six months, as fears grow about another huge wave of the virus in the greater capital area.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday that 633 of the cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where officials pushed back an easing of social distancing measures as infections soared over the past week.
Dozens of infections were each reported in other major cities and regions, including Busan, Daejeon and South Chungcheong Province.
Some health experts say government officials sent the wrong message to the public by announcing plans to allow for larger gatherings and longer indoor dining hours at restaurants starting this month to ease the pandemic’s shock on the economy. The experts say a premature easing of social distancing could have disastrous consequences when the country has administered first doses of vaccines to just 30 per cent of its population and most younger adults remain unvaccinated.
South Korea has reported 158,549 cases, including 2,024 deaths.
6:51 a.m.: India on Thursday crossed the grim milestone of more than 400,000 people lost to the coronavirus, a number that though massive is still thought to be a vast undercount because of a lack of testing and reporting.
More than half of India’s reported coronavirus deaths — the third most of any country — have occurred over the past two months as the the delta variant of the virus tore through the country and overwhelmed the already strained health system.
New cases are on the decline after exceeding 400,000 a day in May, but authorities are preparing for another possible wave and are trying to ramp up vaccination.
The Health Ministry said that 853 people died in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 400,312. It also reported 46,617 new cases, taking the country’s pandemic total past 30.4 million.
India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, is the third to cross 400,000 deaths, after the United States and Brazil.
6:30 a.m.: The province resumed in-car driving tests on June 14, but the backlog to book a road test is staggering. The Ministry of Transportation said 421,827 road tests have been cancelled since March 2020 due to pandemic-related lockdowns.
The ministry said it has invested $16 million to deal with the backlog. Last fall it said it would hire 84 temporary driver examiners for its DriveTest centres, and has so far filled 35 of those positions. It recently announced it would hire 167 additional driver examiners, and recruitment is underway with the goal to have everyone on board by September.
The ministry said it will also add six temporary locations and offer road testing seven days a week where demand is highest, namely the Toronto area.
Canada extends COVID-19 border measures until Sept. 30, including ArriveCan app
OTTAWA — The federal government will extend current COVID-19 public health measures for travellers entering Canada, including the use of the ArriveCan app, until at least Sept. 30.
In a release Wednesday, the Public Health Agency of Canada also said it will continue the pause of mandatory random testing for fully vaccinated travellers at all airports until mid-July.
It first announced the pause on June 11 and said in the release that it’s allowing airports to focus on streamlining their operations.
The public health agency said it’s moving forward with plans to relocate COVID-19 testing for air travellers outside of airports to select test provider stores, pharmacies or by virtual appointment.
Mandatory random testing is to continue at land border points of entry with no changes.
The release added that travellers who are not fully vaccinated and don’t have a valid exemption must continue to test on Day 1 and Day 8 of their 14-day quarantine.
“As we move into the next phase of our COVID-19 response, it is important to remember that the pandemic is not over. We must continue to do all that we can to keep ourselves and others safe from the virus,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in a statement.
He also urged people to remain up to date with the recommended vaccinations to ensure they are adequately protected against infection, transmission and severe complications.
“As we have said all along, Canada’s border measures will remain flexible and adaptable, guided by science and prudence.”
All travellers will have to continue to use the ArriveCan app or website to provide their travel information within 72 hours before their arrival in Canada or before boarding a cruise ship destined for the country. The government said 95 per cent of land and air travellers are using the app and it’s taking steps to enhance compliance.
The government also said moving testing outside of airports will allow Canada to adjust to increased traveller volumes while still being able to monitor and quickly respond to new variants of concern or changes to the epidemiological situation.
It said border testing has been essential in helping Canada slow the spread of the virus, as data from the tests are used to understand the current level and trends of importation of COVID-19 into the country.
The testing program also allows for detection and identification of new COVID-19 variants of concern, it said.
Tourism groups and border-community mayors and MPs have called on the government to ease restrictions and scrap the ArriveCan app, saying the measures are limiting cross-border travel.
Transport Minister Randy Boissonnault said the government is deeply invested in growing Canada’s visitor economy.
“From our reputation as a safe travel destination to our world-class attractions and wide-open spaces, Canada has it all and we are ready to welcome back domestic and international tourists, while prioritizing their safety and well-being.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.
The Canadian Press
Western researchers use MRI to learn cause of long-COVID symptoms – BlackburnNews.com
Western researchers use MRI to learn cause of long-COVID symptoms
June 29, 2022 7:30am
A study led by researchers at Western University has revealed the cause of long-COVID symptoms.
New data published by Western professor Grace Parraga and the LIVECOVIDFREE study, based out of five centres in Ontario, is the largest MRI study of patients with long-COVID. The term long-COVID refers to symptoms of brain fog, breathlessness, fatigue and feeling limited while doing everyday things, often lasting weeks and months post-infection.
This is the first study to show a potential cause of long-COVID, which has helped physicians in the study target treatment for the patients.
“I think it is always a conundrum when someone has symptoms, but you can’t identify the problem,” said Parraga, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Lung Imaging to Transform Outcomes at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. “If you can’t identify the problem, you can’t identify solutions.”
By using MRI imaging with inhaled xenon gas, researchers have identified that the symptoms are caused by microscopic abnormalities that affect how oxygen is exchanged from the lungs to the red blood cells.
Researchers used the technology to watch the function of the 300-500 million tiny alveolar sacs, which are about 1/5 of a millimetre in diameter and responsible for bringing oxygen to the blood.
“What we saw on the MRI was that the transition of the oxygen into the red blood cells was depressed in these symptomatic patients who had had COVID-19, compared to healthy volunteers,” Parraga said.
Further CT scans pointed to ‘abnormal trimming’ of the vascular tree, which indicated an impact on the tiny blood vessels that deliver red blood cells to the alveoli to be oxygenated.
Parraga said the study showed no difference in severity between patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and those who recovered without hospitalization. She said this is an important finding as the latest wave of COVID-19 has affected many people who did not receive hospital-based care.
To conduct the study, researchers recruited patients suspected to be suffering from long-COVID from London Health Sciences Centre’s Urgent COVID-19 Care Clinic and St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s Post-Acute COVID-19 Program. Some participants experienced persistent shortness of breath more than six weeks post-infection, while others were still symptomatic after 35 weeks.
One of the participants is Alex Kopacz, a London-native and Canadian Olympic bobsleigh gold-medalist, who called his experience with COVID-19 “harrowing” and believed the virus would not affect him long-term as he is a young athlete.
“I was on oxygen for almost two months after COVID, and it took me almost three months to get to a place where I could go for a walk without gasping for air,” Kopacz said. “The take home message for me is that we have to remember that this virus can have very serious long-term consequences, which are not trivial.”
Researchers are now conducting a one-year follow-up to better understand these results.
The study was done in collaboration with researchers outside of London at Lakehead University, McMaster University, Toronto Metropolitan University and Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.
Stroke treatment breakthrough found in heart attack drug: Canadian researchers | CTV News – CTV News Calgary
A drug used to treat heart attacks has proven to be an effective treatment for the most common type of stroke, and an even better treatment than the current clinical standard, says a team of Canadian researchers.
Over 80 per cent of all strokes are ischemic strokes, caused by a blood clot blocking, or narrowing, an artery leading to the brain. For over 20 years, the standard of care has been the immediate delivery of a clot-busting medication called Alteplase (tPA).
In the largest study of its kind ever run in Canada, researchers at the University of Calgary and University of Toronto found that the drug Tenecteplase (TNK), currently used in heart attack treatment, is at least equally effective as tPA and possibly more effective in treating ischemic strokes.
“Tenecteplase is known to be an effective clot dissolving drug,” explained U of C researcher Dr. Bijoy Menon. “It is very easy to administer which makes it a game changer when seconds count to save brain cells.”
The Alteplase Compared to Tenecteplase study found Tenecteplase (TNK), a heart attack treatment drug, to be a much more favourable treatment for ischemic strokes than tPA as it’s easier to administer.
Menon says the findings of the AcT (Alteplase Compared to Tenecteplase) trial were so conclusive he expects TNK to become the standard of care worldwide in very short order.
“Guideline Committees get the results, they debate the results, and then the transition happens. So I see this move happening within the next few months,” said Menon.
“The results are very convincing. It’s quite clear at the end of the study that you now have a better choice, and because of the debilitating nature of stroke, there’s urgency to actually change care.”
The current standard of care, tPAm, is complex to administer. It takes up to an hour and requires an infusion pump that needs to be monitored. The pump makes it more difficult to transport patients within a hospital or by ambulance to a larger facility with a dedicated stroke center for treatment.
By comparison, TNK is administered with a single dose through a syringe. The method eases the burden on nurses and doctors, and shaves time off the delivery of the medicine. U of T researcher Dr. Rick Swartz says it also means it will be available as a treatment in more places.
“TNK could potentially be administered wherever the patient is seen first, at a medical centre or small hospital,” explained Swartz. “One of the reasons Tenecteplase is so effective is that in can be administered as a single immediate dose. That’s a big advantage, saving critical time and complication.”
TNK attaches itself to the clot for a longer period of time than tPA, meaning blood flow is restored faster and for a longer period of time. Project nurse lead Carol Kenney says it will save lives.
“In our field we say ‘time his brain’ and any minute or any second that we can save in treating a patient is critical,” said Kenney. “Giving them medication quicker, and trying to get rid of the clot in their brain and get them back to normal again quickly, is so important. It really matters for every patient.”
Stroke survivor André Lavoie, who suffered a stroke in 2015, was part of a focus group that helped guide researchers. While he has recovered from the stroke, Lavoie remains acutely aware of the need for effective, immediate treatment.
“It is really an advancement to get the people to survive, and the whole thing with a stroke is; you may survive a stroke, but it’s your quality of life that you will looking for,” said Lavoie
“So if you have a stroke, and you can have that drug within half an hour an hour, it’s much better than two hours, or three hours to get it. Brain cells usually do not regenerate. So when they die, they die.”
The cross-country AcT Trial included 1600 patients in 22 primary and comprehensive stroke centers across Canada. The results were presented at a conference in Montreal on Wednesday, and published in the medical journal The Lancet.
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