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What you need to know about the coronavirus right now – SaltWire Network

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(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Homegrown AstraZeneca vaccine rolled out in Britain

Britain will become the first country to roll out the low-cost and easily transportable AstraZeneca and Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Six hospitals in England will administer the first of about 530,000 doses Britain has ready. The programme will be expanded to hundreds of other British sites in coming days and the government hopes it will deliver tens of millions of doses within months.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper and can be stored at fridge temperature, which makes it easier to transport and use. India approved the vaccine on Sunday for emergency use.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that tougher coronavirus restrictions were likely to be introduced, even with millions of citizens already living under the strictest tier of rules.

Tokyo considers state of emergency

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Monday the government would consider declaring a state of emergency for the Greater Tokyo area as coronavirus cases climb and strain the medical system. The declaration would mark a reversal, as Suga has resisted any drastic steps that would restrict economic activity.

Suga did not say when the government would make a decision, or what restrictions would follow. He did repeat that many of the new cases with unknown origin were likely linked to restaurants and that the government’s latest request for restaurants in the Tokyo area to close at 8 p.m. – rather than 10 p.m. – should be effective.

Japan saw a record 4,520 new cases on Dec. 31, prompting the capital and three neighbouring prefectures to seek an emergency declaration from the government. The region accounts for about half of new nationwide cases.

U.S. may cut some Moderna vaccine doses in half to speed rollout, official says

The U.S. government is considering giving some people half the dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in order to speed vaccinations, a federal official said on Sunday.

“We know that for the Moderna vaccine, giving half of the dose to people between the ages of 18 and 55, two doses, half the dose, which means exactly achieving the objective of immunizing double the number of people with the doses we have,” Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine program, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation”.

“We know it induces identical immune response” to the full dose, he said. Moderna and the FDA could not immediately be reached for comment.

South Korea expands restrictions, spends more on cosmetic surgery

South Korea has expanded a ban on private gatherings larger than four people to the whole country and extended unprecedented social distancing rules in greater Seoul as the number of daily cases bounced back to more than 1,000. The extended social-distancing rules imposed on Seoul and neighbouring areas include curbs on churches, restaurants, cafes and ski resorts.

South Koreans are getting more cosmetic surgery with one doctor speculating that for some people, it was an emotional response to the pandemic.

The industry was estimated to be worth about $10.7 billion in 2020, up 9.2% year-on-year, and expected to rise to about $11.8 billion this year, according to Gangnam Unni, the country’s largest online cosmetic surgery platform.

Surgeon Shin Sang-ho, who operates Krismas Plastic Surgery Clinic, said many people had spent their emergency stimulus payment from the government at hospitals and clinics, boosting revenue in the third and fourth quarters of 2020. “I’ve sensed that customers were expressing their pent-up emotions by getting cosmetic procedures,” Shin said.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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COVID-19: Fraser Health declares outbreak at B.C. jail after 20 test positive – Vancouver Sun

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Fraser Health has declared four new COVID-19 outbreaks, including at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre, where 20 people in custody have tested positive.

The health authority says it is working to identify others who may have had contact with those who tested positive at the jail in Port Coquitlam.

There have been several outbreaks in prisons and jails across Canada, including at Mission Institution in the Fraser Valley, where an inmate died in April.

Fraser Health says there are also new outbreaks at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, the rehabilitation unit at Queen’s Park Care Centre in the same city, and the Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre.

It says two patients tested positive for COVID-19 in a surgical unit at the hospital and the outbreak is limited to that unit.

The emergency department remains open and the health authority says other areas of the hospital are not affected by the outbreak.

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B.C. unveils plan to vaccinate millions by September – Toronto Star

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Nearly one year after the first case of COVID-19 was identified in B.C., the province announced its plan to have everyone who wants a vaccine immunized by September.

B.C. has distributed 100,000 immunizations in the past six weeks, and the province announced its timeline for the general population on Jan. 22.

Beginning in late-February, the province will move on to Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout. From December to March 800,000 doses of vaccine are expected to arrive in B.C., from April to June 2.6 million doses, and June to September six million doses are expected in the province.

“The plan forward is one that will put 4.3 million British Columbians in a vaccinated situation by the end of September,” Premier John Horgan said.

“By the end of September everyone who wants a vaccination will have one and the community immunity that we’re all striving for will be a reality,” Horgan said.

The plan depends on a consistent supply of vaccine, which has been disrupted recently with Pfizer upscaling its production plant in Europe, Horgan said. New vaccines, not yet approved by Health Canada, will also allow amendments to the plan going forward.

The province announced plans Friday to establish vaccine distribution in clinics in 172 communities in March through local health authorities in partnership with businesses, volunteers and municipalities.

It will be the largest immunization program in the history of the province, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, with 8.6 million immunizations (two doses per person, 35 days apart) planned in the coming months.

People born in 1941 and earlier who were not immunized in Phase 1 are eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 2, starting in late February and early March, as the age group eligible for vaccine moves down from there in five-year increments. Starting in mid-to-late February, health authorities will be reaching out to seniors 80 years and older and Indigenous seniors 65 and older, and Indigenous Elders, to provide information on how to pre-register for immunization appointments.

Hospital staff, community general practitioners, and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1 will be eligible in Phase 2 as well as vulnerable populations living in congregate settings and shelters and staff in community home support and home care programs.

People aged 16 to 69 who are considered extremely vulnerable will also be eligible during this time including those with specific cancers, people receiving immunotherapy, sever respiratory conditions, rare diseases, immunosuppression therapies, adults on dialysis, people who have had their spleen removed, women who are pregnant with significant heart disease (congenital or acquired) and those with significant neuromuscular conditions requiring respiratory support.

Vaccinations to begin on general population in April

Phase 3 (April to June) will broaden the vaccine distribution into the general population. Starting with B.C. residents aged 60 to 79, who will likely get their first shot in April.

As more vaccines are approved, particularly those with less stringent transportation and temperature restrictions, other age groups may be considered during Phase 3 — specifically those between the ages of 18 and 64 who are front-line essential workers or work in specific industries.

When Phase 4 begins (July to September) vaccinations will be available for those aged 59 and under, moving down in five-year cohorts to age 18.

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When vaccine distribution starts coming to the general population in Phases 3 and Phase 4 clinics will be held at large centres including school gymnasiums, arenas, convention and community halls and mobile clinics in self-contained vehicles will be available for some rural communities and for those who are homebound due to mobility issues, with more details coming on those operations in late February and early March.

The province’s communication plan launching in late-February will let residents know when they can expect to be vaccinated, how and where to pre-register and how to access vaccination clinics. Residents can register two to four weeks before being eligible for a vaccine.

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As vaccinations ramp up, when will B.C. ease restrictions? Health officials weigh in – CTV News Vancouver

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VANCOUVER —
Big parties and international travel will likely remain unsafe for British Columbians this summer, despite the province’s plans to administer millions of COVID-19 doses over the coming months.

That’s the latest forecast from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who was asked Friday when B.C.’s dramatically ramped up immunization program might pave the way for residents to remove their masks and begin gathering again.

The short answer is that it’s still too soon to say, though Henry did offer a few predictions for the year ahead.

She suggested this summer will probably look like last year, at least when it comes to vacations and big gatherings.

“I absolutely think there’s opportunities for us to travel within B.C. this summer,” Henry said. “It’s not realistic to think there’s going to be a lot of safe international travel by this summer, just because of the situation around the world.”

Henry also expects the kinds of “big parties” that led to widespread COVID-19 transmission last July and August will remain off-limits. But much of the province’s most at-risk populations should be vaccinated by then, if everything goes according to plan, and Henry noted the virus doesn’t appear to spread as easily in the warmer months as it does in fall and winter.

With that in mind, she expects “increased social interactions” will be allowed this summer.

“I do believe we’ll be able to get together in smaller groups, responsibly,” Henry said.

It’s unclear whether that means bigger social bubbles in 2021 than 2020. The provincial health officer noted there are “a whole lot of unknowns” in the province’s calculations, and that the government’s plans are prone to change as necessary.

As for the current restrictions that have been in place since early November, Henry said lifting those will depend on the public’s ability to slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s too early in the immunization program to expect the vaccine to do the heavy lifting there.

“We need to really focus on reducing the transmission risk in our community as low as possible, because that’s what drives outbreaks in long-term care, that’s what drives exposure events in schools, and that’s what drives the risk in our social gatherings,” Henry said.

“If we can do that, we can start having increased … social connection again.”

She also suggested the faster-spreading COVID-19 variants that have arrived in B.C. could impact the timeline if they lead to another rapid surge in cases.

The current restrictions, which generally do not allow for in-person socializing between different households, are scheduled to remain in place until at least Feb. 5. While Henry said health officials will be looking at potentially revising the public health orders at that time, she strongly discouraged British Columbians from making travel plans over the Family Day long weekend.

“Stay local,” she said. “We won’t be at a place where we can travel.”

And getting life back to normal, at least in terms of social interactions and gatherings, isn’t likely until the fall, according to Henry.

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