The campaign to vanquish the coronavirus is picking up speed, with Britain beginning to dispense the second vaccine in its arsenal Monday, and India, the world’s second-most populous country, authorizing its first shots.
In the U.S., meanwhile, government officials reported that vaccinations have accelerated markedly after a disappointingly slow start. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said over the weekend that 1.5 million shots were administered in 72 hours, bringing the total to about 4 million.
Britain on Monday became the first nation to start using the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, ramping up its nationwide inoculation campaign amid soaring infection rates blamed on a new and seemingly more contagious variant of the virus.
Brian Pinker, an 82-year-old dialysis patient, received the first shot at Oxford University Hospital, saying in statement: “I can now really look forward to celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary.”
Britain’s mass vaccination program began Dec. 8 with the shot developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.
The country has recorded more than 50,000 new coronavirus infections a day over the past six days, and deaths have climbed past 75,000, one of the worst tolls in Europe.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a wave of near-lockdowns the weekend before Christmas and warned on Monday that “tough, tough” weeks lie ahead and that more restrictions are coming soon: “If you look at the numbers, there’s no question we will have to take tougher measures and we will be announcing those in due course.”
Those measures could include more schools closings, curfews and a total ban on the mixing of people from different households.
On Sunday, India authorized two COVID-19 vaccines — the Oxford-AstraZeneca one and another developed by an Indian company — paving the way for a huge inoculation program to stem the outbreak in the desperately poor country of about 1.4 billion people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it a “decisive turning point to strengthen a spirited fight.”
But questions have been raised by health experts over the vaccine developed by India’s Bharat Biotech. They point out that clinical trials did not begin until mid-November, making it almost impossible for the company to have analyzed and submitted data showing its shots are effective.
India has confirmed more than 10.3 million cases of the virus, second in the world behind the U.S. It also has reported about 150,000 deaths.
The country’s initial immunization plan aims to vaccinate 300 million people — health care workers, front-line staff including police, and those considered vulnerable because of their age or other diseases — by August.
Neither of the approved vaccines requires the ultra-cold storage facilities that some others do. Instead, they can kept in refrigerators, making them more feasible for the country.
In the U.S., the rollout has been marked by a multitude of logistical hurdles, a patchwork of approaches by state and local governments, and confusion. Some people are uncertain where or when to get a shot.
Fauci said over the weekend that he saw “some little glimmer of hope” in the stepped-up rate of vaccinations. He acknowledged the U.S. fell short of its goal of having 20 million doses shipped and distributed by the end of December, saying, “We are not where we want to be.”
But he expressed optimism that the momentum will pick up by mid-January and that ultimately the U.S. will be vaccinating 1 million people a day. He said President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 100 million people in his first 100 days in office is “realistic.”
The European Union, meanwhile, defended its vaccination strategy Monday amid growing criticism about the slow rollout of COVID-19 shots across the 27-nation bloc of 450 million inhabitants.
EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said the main problem “is an issue of production capacity, an issue that everybody is facing.”
The EU has sealed six vaccines contracts with a variety of manufacturers. But only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use so far across the EU. The EU’s drug regulators are expected to decide on Wednesday whether to recommend authorizing the Moderna vaccine.
Aspects of Britain’s vaccination plans have also spurred controversy.
Both of the vaccines it is using require two shots, and Pfizer has recommended that the second dose be given within 21 days. But British health authorities want to give the first dose to as many people as possible right away, rather than setting aside vaccine to ensure people get their second shot on time. The plan requires stretching out the time between the doses from 21 days to within 12 weeks.
While two doses are required to fully protect against COVID-19, one dose offers a high level of protection.
Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said policymakers are being forced to balance the potential risks and benefits in the middle of the disaster.
“We have a crisis situation in the UK with a new variant spreading rapidly, and as has become clear to everyone during 2020, delays cost lives,” Evans said. “When resources of doses and people to vaccinate are limited, then vaccinating more people with potentially less efficacy is demonstrably better than a fuller efficacy in only half.”
Danica Kirka And Aniruddha Ghosal, The Associated Press
COVID-19 in B.C.: Youth cases increase, six more foreigners test positive, health violations, and more – Straight.com
Case numbers continue to remain steady or are decreasing in several categories, while the number of deaths remains concerning.
In addition, there has been an increase in cases observed among young people, and there have been a number of incidents involving health order violations.
When B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked at yesterday’s briefing about cases among young people, she said that they have seen an increase in cases among youth over the last few weeks, “particularly when school ended in mid-December”.
She said they have been watching these cases carefully to try and figure out what contributing factors are, and she said most of the cases appear to be related to transmission within households and in small groups.
She said that all children who have been in intensive care units have recovered.
She that so far, B.C. has had five multi-inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) cases and all of these young individuals have recovered. She addd that she will provide more MIS-C data later this week.
Once again, the B.C. government has extended the provincial state of emergency, this time until February 2.
Today, Emergency Management B.C. stated that 693 violation tickets were issued between August 21 and January 15, which includes:
- 119 fines of $2,300 each to owners or organizers for gatherings and events;
- 26 violation tickets for $2,300 each for violating food and liquor orders;
- 548 tickets of $230 fines each to individuals who refused to comply with law enforcement.
Since the pandemic began, police agencies in B.C. have issued a total of 85 violation tickets to individuals who violated the federal Quarantine Act, for total of $93,466 worth of fines.
Today, the Vancouver Police Department stated that a couple—a 60-year-old man and his 25-year-old girlfriend—each received fines of $230 for walking through a gym near False Creek without masks and coughing in the direction of people and equipment.
In addition, West Vancouver police, in response to a complaint about a loud late-night party, issued a $2,300 fine to a 40-year-old man hosting several individuals at a business for breaking provincial public health orders on gatherings and events.
In Prince George, RCMP were informed on January 13 that guests staying at the Ramada Plaza Hotel (444 George Street) were violating public health orders. While conducting a compliance check, officers found:
- large amounts of suspected fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, crack cocaine, and numerous prescription pills;
- several firearms hidden throughout the room;
- various stolen items, including laptops, industrial tools, and other electronic devices.
Police arrested two individuals, who were charged with possession of prohibited device, and the investigation remains ongoing.
In Kelowna, Harvest Church violated public health orders by holding in-person faith services, according to CBC News. RCMP issued a $2,300 violation ticket after a gathering was held on January 17 at the church. This is the second such fine for the church, which was previously issued a violation ticket in December for the same reason.
In a joint statement, Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that there are 465 new cases (including 13 epi-linked cases) in the province today.
By region, that includes:
- 262 new cases in Fraser Health;
- 83 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
- 61 in Interior Health;
- 32 in the Northern Health;
- 21 in Island Health;
- six people from outside Canada.
Currently, there are 4,331 active cases, which is only five more people since yesterday.
Once again, the number of hospitalized cases continues to decrease. With 14 less people in hospital since yesterday, there are now 329 people are in hospital, with 70 of those patients in intensive care (two more than yesterday).
Public health is monitoring 6,864 people who have been exposed to confirmed cases.
Sadly, Henry and Dix announced 12 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the cumulative total to 1,090 people who have died during the pandemic.
A cumulative total of 55,099 people have now recovered.
During the pandemic, B.C. has recorded 61,912 total cases, which includes:
- 38,068 cases in Fraser Health (62 percent);
- 14,092 in Vancouver Coastal Health (23 percent);
- 5,374 in Interior Health (nine percent);
- 2,943 in Northern Health (five percent);
- 1,306 in Island Health (two percent);
- 129 people from outside Canada (less than one percent).
When it comes to vaccinations, a cumulative total of 92,369 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is now providing daily immunization data on its COVID-19 dashboard available on its website. (On the dashboard, click on the “Vaccine Supply and Administered, B.C.” tab at the bottom of the page.)
The good news is that there aren’t any new healthcare outbreaks.
Today, Fraser Health declared outbreaks over at these three healthcare facilities:
- Maple Ridge Seniors Village in Maple Ridge;
- The Emerald at Elim Village in Surrey;
- Guildford Seniors Village in Surrey.
Interior Health stated today that an additional 28 new cases have brought the community cluster at Big White Mountain has now had a cumulative total of 203 cases since it began. At the moment, there are 43 active cases and 160 people have recovered.
Loblaw reported that two of its stores has staff members who tested positive:
- one employee who last worked on January 6 at Real Canadian Superstore (3000 Laugheed Highway) in Coquitlam;
- one employee who last worked on January 15 at Shoppers Drug Mart (1006 Homer Street).
Rumble Boxing announced on January 17 that it would be voluntarily closing its studio in Yaletown (968 Expo Boulevard) for 48 hours for sanitization after a staff member tested positive.
Making Manitoba's latest COVID cut – Winnipeg Free Press
While public health officials may give the green light to small household gatherings and a slightly enlarged social circle for people in southern Manitoba, they have suggested restaurants and nail salons must remain closed for the time being.
It’s not that getting together at home with two friends and having a meal is less risky than doing the same at a restaurant — household spread of COVID-19 is common and often asymptomatic, according to Winnipeg-based epidemiologist Cynthia Carr.
It’s permitting people to do both that could spell trouble.
“The one advantage with restaurants is they were controlling how much time you could spend in the restaurant at that table, but you’re still in a risky situation being that you’re sitting together at a table. Obviously, you’re not wearing masks because you’re eating and drinking,” said Carr.
“There’s nothing to say that then you wouldn’t go back to one of your homes and visit.”
Carr said allowing small gatherings of two people within a household — as Manitoba health officials have proposed — takes into account social and mental health benefits, while keeping overall contact numbers and exposure potential in mind.
“It goes back to, ‘Where are the opportunities for reasonable openings?’ Because there are no zero-risk options,” Carr said.
Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Tuesday businesses such as nail salons did not make the first round of reopening considerations based on risk and how “essential” Manitobans consider a service to be.
When it comes to shopping, Roussin said, while people may be gathered in the same vicinity, they are not in close, prolonged contact.
“So we feel that with those tight restrictions, it’s a very prudent response,” he said.
Meanwhile, gyms and organized recreation will be looked at in the future, because prolonged, indoor contact is likely in such activities and there is evidence of transmission connected to both youth and adult recreation events, Roussin said.
“We can’t open everything at once. If we open everything at once, we risk seeing those numbers climb and we’re stuck going backwards again,” Roussin said.
COVID deaths rise to 53 in Northern Health – Prince George Citizen
One more person in the Northern Health region has died from COVID-19, according to B.C. Centre for Disease Control numbers issued Tuesday.
The fatality increased the total to 53 in the region since the pandemic broke out and was among 12 deaths reported province-wide, increasing that total to 1,090 deaths. Seven of those new deaths were in Fraser Health, raising the total there to 611.
Active cases in Northern Health stood at 525, down by six from the day before, with 40 in hospital, no change from Monday, and 17 of them in intensive care, up by one.
For B.C. as a whole, active cases rose by six to 4,331, with Fraser Health accounting for 1,737, up 34, and Vancouver Coastal 818, down 35. Interior Health stood at 1,055, Vancouver Island at 184 and out of Canada at 12 with marginal changes in those totals from Monday.
Meanwhile, Northern Health reported a new exposure D.P. Todd Secondary School. It is for Jan. 11-12 and is the second time the school has been put on the list.
“If your child’s school has been notified of an exposure, no action is required unless you are contacted by Public Health or are otherwise directed by school officials,” Northern Health says in the posting. “Public Health will contact you directly in case of any school exposure involving your child.”
In a joint statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix stressed good practices while people wait for the vaccine rollout.
“The vaccines are our path forward to the brighter days ahead. However, until that path is wide enough for everyone, we must continue to focus on our individual efforts,” they said.
“To get to the finish line faster and to make our communities safer, we must stop the spread in our communities today. We do that by following the measures we have in place: washing our hands, staying home when we are ill, getting tested and always using our layers of protection.
“Let’s choose safety by continuing to do our part to protect everyone in our province.”
Also on Tuesday, Dix said B.C. is still on track to begin administering second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine despite the news that no vials will be delivered to Canada next week.
LG considers exiting smartphones in 2021 – The Verge
COVID-19 in B.C.: Youth cases increase, six more foreigners test positive, health violations, and more – Straight.com
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