Here's your daily update with everything you need to know on the coronavirus situation in B.C. and around the world.
Here’s your update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for June 29, 2022.
We’ll provide summaries of what’s going on right here so you can get the latest news at a glance. This page will be updated regularly every day this week, with developments added as they happen, so be sure to check back often.
You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.
• Hospitalized cases: 273 • Intensive care: 28 • New cases: 642 over seven days • Total number of confirmed cases: 373,974 • Total deaths over seven days: 26 (total 3,722)
Read the full report here | Next update: June 30 at 1 p.m. (or later)
• BioNTech, Pfizer to start testing universal vaccine for coronaviruses. • COVID-19 is on the rise in Quebec and its public health director is warning residents take steps to protect themselves. • B.C. Ferries CEO says the corporation has used up all the COVID-19 bailout money. • Facility able to manufacture millions of COVID-19 vaccines opens in Saskatoon. • ‘Freedom Convoy’ Tamara Lich was arrested in Alberta for breach of conditions. • The U.S. FDA will decide whether to redesign COVID-19 vaccines this fall to fight Omicron. • How does Ireland’s main airport plans to deal with a COVID surge? Get the army to help. • Shanghai’s Disneyland to reopen after China eases COVID restrictions. • How did Canada handle the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic? Pretty good in comparison to several other nations with comparable health-care and economic infrastructure, a new study suggests. • A new study supports guidelines that call for a five-day isolation period for COVID-19 infections followed by five days of strict masking to help prevent transmission. • Another study shows COVID-19 may reactivate a common virus that lurks unseen in most people, and that effect might increase patients’ risk of certain long-lasting symptoms. • Omicron-based COVID shots have a better response against that variant, said Pfizer/BioNTech • COVID-19 vaccines this fall are likely to be based on the Omicron variant of the coronavirus rather than the original strain. • The latest B.C. data show 273 people were hospitalized over the last week, and 26 people died.
Germany’s BioNTech, Pfizer’s partner in COVID-19 vaccines, said the two companies would start tests on humans of next-generation shots that protect against a wide variety of coronaviruses in the second half of the year.
Their experimental work on shots that go beyond the current approach include T-cell-enhancing shots, designed to primarily protect against severe disease if the virus becomes more dangerous, and pan-coronavirus shots that protect against the broader family of viruses and its mutations.
In presentation slides posted on BioNTech’s website for its investor day, the German biotech firm said its aim was to “provide durable variant protection.”
The two partners, makers of the Western world’s most widely used COVID-19 shot, are currently discussing with regulators enhanced versions of their established shot to better protect against the Omicron variant and its sublineages.
COVID-19 is on the rise in the province and Quebecers should take steps to protect themselves, Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Luc Boileau, said at a pandemic news conference Wednesday morning.
Multiple signs point to an increase in COVID-19, including a rise in cases, community transmission, outbreaks and hospitalizations. As well, the number of health care workers absent due to the disease is rising, a particular concern when hospitals are already overburdened and are lacking staff because of summer holidays.
Boileau suggested people wear masks, particularly if they are in at-risk groups, and get a booster shot if they haven’t already done so.
“Many of you may have noticed an increase in cases among friends and acquaintances,” Boileau said. “It is linked to new variants that are progressing, including BA2.12.1 and BA.4 and BA.5.”
The variants are more transmissible than the original strain “and we estimate more than three-quarters of cases are linked to these types of variants.”
Read the full story here.
COVID-19 cases in the Americas rose about 14% last week from the previous one, with 1.3 million new cases and 4,158 new deaths reported, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
South America was the worst affected, with an increased COVID death rate up 32.8% from previous week, according to PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne.
“In South America, there has been a significant increase in COVID-19 incidence, with almost half a million new COVID-19 cases reported during the last week – a 24.6% increase compared to the previous week,” Etienne said in a press briefing.
The largest rise in infections were reported in Bolivia followed by Peru.
North America saw an increase of 7.7% compared to the previous week despite a drop in cases in Canada, as the United States and Mexico are trending in the opposite direction, PAHO said.
Online searches for Chinese airline tickets on domestic and international routes surged on Wednesday, after Beijing said it would slash COVID-19 quarantine requirements and made changes to a state-mandated mobile app used for local travel.
The unexpected moves mark a significant easing of rigid curbs that have severely curtailed travel and battered China’s economy, although tough measures remain in place including a scarcity of international flights, and many social media users voiced caution.
The industry ministry said on Wednesday that a Chinese mobile app that shows whether a person has travelled in a Chinese city with COVID-affected areas will no longer mark that history with an asterisk, one of the many means China has of tracking and curbing the virus’s possible spread.
The asterisk helped local authorities to impose curbs such as quarantines and COVID testing, and sparked widespread complaints.
“It looks like a small step, but is a rather big step,” a user wrote on the Twitter-like Weibo, where the announcement quickly became the top topic with more than 200 million views.
Read the full story here.
B.C. Ferries has used all of its $308 million COVID-19 government financial aid package, says the corporation’s CEO.
According to Mark Collins, in December 2020 B.C. Ferries was given $308 million as a joint offering from the federal and provincial governments to manage the impacts of COVID. The bulk of this money ($280 million) was to cover losses due to COVID restrictions impacting ferry service, while $24 million was to ensure there were no fare increases and $4 million was to ensure there was no reduction in service on small routes.
Called Safe Restart Funding, half of the money came from the federal government’s $19 billion Safe Restart Agreement, while the rest came from the B.C. Restart Plan (which wasn’t part of the province’s $5 billion COVID-19 Action Plan that was announced in March 2020.)
TransLink and Transit B.C. received similar amounts from the same joint federal/provincial agreement.
A centre that can develop up to 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines a year has opened in Saskatoon, and officials say it may soon export vaccines throughout North America and Europe.
The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization has completed construction of its Level 3 containment facility, considered to be the largest in Canada.
It is able to manufacture both human and animal vaccines for dangerous viruses.
“We have the ability to work with these pathogens, discover, develop new vaccines, and then also manufacture them in-house, and that saves time, and time is very important during a pandemic,” CEO and director Volker Gerdts said Tuesday.
Health officials in South Korea on Wednesday approved the country’s first domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 years or older, adding another public health tool in the fight against a prolonged pandemic.
In clinical trials involving some 4,000 participants in South Korea and five other countries, SK Bioscience’s two-dose SKYCovione vaccine appeared to be more effective than the broadly used AstraZeneca shots in building immunity against infections, officials at South Korea’s Food and Drug Safety Ministry said.
It isn’t immediately clear how officials will administer the newly developed vaccine or how big of a role the shots will have in the next phase of the pandemic. The shots were designed for the original version of the coronavirus, not the more transmissible omicron variant that wreaked havoc in the country earlier this year. U.S. vaccine giants Pfizer and Moderna have been speeding up their development of booster shots targeting omicron and experts say it’s possible the virus could evolve again in the coming months.
Tamara Lich, a key organizer of the “Freedom Convoy,” has been arrested in Alberta on a Canada-wide warrant for breach of her court conditions, say Ottawa police.
Lich will be returned to Ottawa to appear in court, police said Tuesday.
Eric Granger, one of Lich’s lawyers, confirmed the arrest in an email Monday evening, and added that they were awaiting further details, but the arrest appeared to be related to Lich’s bail conditions.
He could not confirm the location of the arrest, but another lawyer who has also represented Lich, Keith Wilson, said on Twitter that the arrest happened Monday in Medicine Hat, Alta., where she lives.
Read the full story here.
U.S. regulators plan to decide by early July on whether to change the design of COVID-19 vaccines this fall in order to combat more recent variants of the coronavirus, with hopes of launching a booster campaign by October, a top Food and Drug Administration official said on Tuesday.
“The better the match of the vaccines to the circulating strain we believe may correspond to improve vaccine effectiveness, and potentially to a better durability of protection,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said at a meeting of outside advisers to the regulator.
The committee is scheduled to vote on a recommendation on whether to make the change later on Tuesday.
The updated shots are likely to be redesigned to fight the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, experts say. The exact composition of the retooled shots and whether they also will include some of the original vaccine alongside new components will be considered at the meeting.
Ireland agreed on Tuesday to put the army on standby to help with security at Dublin airport should staffing be hit by a resurgence of COVID-19 during the rest of the busy summer travel period.
Ireland’s main airport is one of many around Europe that has struggled to hire staff fast enough to deal with a sharp rebound in travel, although it has had relatively few issues since more than 1,000 passengers missed their flights in a single day last month.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise again in Ireland, the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) asked that members of the defense forces be trained and certified to enable them be put on standby to assist with security duties.
More than one in four Dublin airport security staff were absent during the last major COVID-19 wave in early 2022, the transport ministry said.
“The defense forces will only be deployed in a scenario where there is a significant deterioration in passenger queuing times with a risk of large numbers of passengers missing their flights,” Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said in a statement.
Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport are now at over 90% of 2019 levels and Ryan said the airport expected another 10% increase in coming weeks. The army would only be on standby during July and August, he added.
Shanghai Disneyland is set to reopen this week with limited capacity and enhanced health and safety protocols, after a months-long shutdown because of the coronavirus.
The majority of attractions, rides, shows, shopping and dining will resume operations on June 30, according to a statement on the park’s website. Some experiences including Explorer Canoes, Selfie Spot with Mickey at the Gardens of Imagination and Marvel Universe will remain closed.
Walt Disney Co.’s Shanghai resort and parks were temporarily closed in March after a rise in the number of Covid-19 infections reported in the city. Some operations were reopened earlier this month.
Canada handled the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and weathered the ensuing upheaval better than several other nations with comparable health-care and economic infrastructure, a new study suggests.
The research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Monday, credits Canada’s strong performance to restrictive and persistent public health measures as well as a successful vaccination campaign.
A team of Ontario researchers analyzed data from February 2020 to February 2022 in the group of industrialized countries known as the G10, which actually has 11 members. They compared Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States — all countries with similar political, economic, and health-care systems.
“If you look at Canada compared to the G10, the differences are enormous,” study co-author Dr. Fahad Razak said in a recent interview. “If you look at our vaccination rate, we had the highest in the entire G10.”
Read the full story here.
A new study supports guidelines that call for a five-day isolation period for COVID-19 infections followed by five days of strict masking to help prevent transmission from cases that remain culture positive, researchers said.
Boston University School of Medicine researchers collected daily nasal swabs for at least 10 days from 92 vaccinated college students and staff infected with the Delta or Omicron variants of the coronavirus for analysis with PCR and with the kind of rapid-antigen tests that are available for home use. Among these young and otherwise healthy adults, only 17% still tested positive after five days, and no one was infectious beyond 12 days after symptom onset, the researchers reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases. The results were similar regardless of variant or vaccine booster status, and negative rapid antigen tests were very reliable, according to the report.
While rapid antigen testing “may provide reassurance of lack of infectiousness … a full 10 days is necessary to prevent transmission from the 17 percent of individuals who remain culture positive after isolation,” study leader Dr. Tara Bouton said in a statement.
COVID-19 may reactivate a common virus that lurks unseen in most people, and that effect might increase patients’ risk of certain long-lasting symptoms, according to preliminary findings from a study.
More than 90% of adults have been infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Most remained asymptomatic, but some developed mononucleosis as adolescents or young adults.
Among 280 patients with SARS-CoV-2 infections, including 208 with long COVID, researchers found that at four months after diagnosis, fatigue and problems with thinking and reasoning were more common in study participants with immune cells in their blood showing signs of recent EBV reactivation.
G7 leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, must make ending the COVID-19 pandemic a critical part of their summit in Germany, said a senior adviser to the director general at the World Health Organization.
Dr. Bruce Aylward said failing to keep COVID-19 at the top of the agenda risks further economic harm and unleashing more civil unrest.
Aylward is a Canadian infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who has worked for WHO since 1992. In an interview, he said if getting control of the pandemic by investing in vaccines and treatments for all countries isn’t important to the G7, it won’t be important to anyone.
Infection with the coronavirus impairs the activity of multiple genes involved in the body’s chemical processes, including blood sugar metabolism, and for the first time researchers have seen these effects not just in patients’ respiratory tract but elsewhere in the body.
Japanese researchers analyzed blood and tissue samples from patients with mild or severe COVID-19 and from healthy volunteers, evaluating the “expression” – or activity levels – of genes that control the so-called insulin/IGF signaling pathway, which in turn affects many body functions necessary for metabolism, growth, and fertility.
The new findings might be a clue to why some patients develop metabolic complications during or after COVID-19, such as insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and new onset of diabetes, the researchers said.
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Saturday that a booster dose of updated versions of their COVID-19 vaccine, modified specifically to combat the Omicron coronavirus variant, generated a higher immune response against that variant.
Advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss whether to update COVID-19 vaccines for the fall. The updated shots are likely to be redesigned to combat the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, experts say.
Pfizer and BioNTech said that 30 and 60 microgram doses of a shot targeting just the BA.1 Omicron subvariant that was circulating last winter elicited a 13.5 and 19.6-fold increase in neutralizing geometric titers against that subvariant. A version of the shot that contained both the redesigned vaccine and their original vaccine elicited a 9.1 and 10.9-fold increase, they said.
Read the full story here.
COVID-19 vaccines this fall are likely to be based on the Omicron variant of the coronavirus rather than the original strain, although some experts suggest they may only offer significant benefits for older and immunocompromised people.
Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax have been testing vaccines based on the first BA.1 Omicron variant that became dominant last winter, driving a massive surge in infections.
On Wednesday, Moderna said its updated vaccine worked well against more recent Omicron subvariants, and that it was moving forward with plans to ask regulators for approval.
Read the full story here.
B.C. currently has 273 people in hospital with COVID-19, according to latest figures released Thursday.
The number of hospitalizations is similar to last Thursday when 276 people were in hospital with the virus.
June’s hospitalization figures are markedly lower than in May, when hospitalizations numbered above 500.
In its weekly report for June 12 to 18, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said there have been 26 deaths where the deceased had died within 30 days of a positive COVID-19 test, down from 61 the week before.
There were 156 people admitted to hospital during this time period, down from 220 the previous week.
MASKS: Masks are not required in public indoor settings though individual businesses and event organizers can choose to require them.
Masks are also encouraged but not required on board public transit and B.C. Ferries, though they are still required in federally regulated travel spaces such as trains, airports and airplanes, and in health care settings.
GATHERINGS AND EVENTS: There are currently no restrictions on gatherings and events such as personal gatherings, weddings, funerals, worship services, exercise and fitness activities, and swimming pools.
There are also no restrictions or capacity limits on restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs; and no restrictions on sport activities.
CARE HOMES: There are no capacity restrictions on visitors to long-term care and seniors’ assisted living facilities, however, visitors must show proof of vaccination before visiting. Exemptions are available for children under the age of 12, those with a medical exemption, and visitors attending for compassionate visits related to end-of-life.
Visitors to seniors’ homes are also required to take a rapid antigen test before visiting the facility or be tested on arrival. Exemptions to testing are available for those attending for compassionate visits or end-of-life care.
Everyone who is living in B.C. and eligible for a vaccine can receive one by following these steps:
• Get registered online at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated to book an appointment in your community. • Or, if you prefer, you can get registered and then visit a drop-in clinic in your health authority. • The system will alert you when it is time to go for your second dose. • The same system will also alert you when it is time for your booster dose.
TESTING CENTRES: B.C.’s COVID-19 test collection centres are currently only testing those with symptoms who are hospitalized, pregnant, considered high risk or live/work with those who are high risk. You can find a testing centre using the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s testing centre map.
If you have mild symptoms, you do not need a test and should stay home until your fever is gone. Those without symptoms do not need a test.
TAKE-HOME RAPID ANTIGEN TESTS: Eligible British Columbians over the age of 18 with a personal health number can visit a pharmacy to receive a free take-home test kit containing five COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.
Sign up to receive daily headline news from the Vancouver Sun, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.
A welcome email is on its way. If you don't see it, please check your junk folder.
The next issue of Vancouver Sun Headline News will soon be in your inbox.
We encountered an issue signing you up. Please try again
Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.
365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4
© 2022 Vancouver Sun, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.