March 6, 2022

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Feb. 4 | CBC News

A production scientist is shown Thursday at the Afrigen Biologics site in Cape Town, South Africa. Afrigen has used the publicly available sequence of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to make its own version of the shot, which could be tested in humans before the end of this year, the company said this week. (Shelley Christians/Reuters)

Canada needs to adopt a ‘more sustainable’ approach to COVID-19, Tam says 

Canada’s top public health official said on Friday that the country needs to find a more “sustainable” way to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and future variants of the virus.

Speaking to reporters at the weekly public health briefing, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said all existing public health policies, including provincial vaccine passports, need to be “re-examined” in the coming weeks because it’s clear now that Canada and the rest of the world will be grappling with this virus for months or years to come.

Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada is talking to its provincial and territorial counterparts to chart a path forward for a country exhausted after two years of enduring some of the most restrictive measures in the developed world. Together, she said, these agencies will review the current “suite of measures,” including severe border restrictions and travel limitations.

“I think the whole concept is, we do need to get back to some normalcy,” Tam said.

Tam said it’s now clear that the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine — the first two shots of an mRNA vaccine or a viral vector product like the AstraZeneca vaccine — do not protect against an Omicron infection.

That is borne out by Health Canada data. Between reports issued on Jan. 5 and Jan. 15 of those where vaccination status was reported, the percentage of deaths of Canadians fully vaccinated (considered two doses) increased from 10. 2 per cent to 16.8 per cent as Omicron spread. With respect to hospitalizations of those considered fully vaccinated in that span, it climbed from eight per cent to 17 per cent.

In addition, the age and unvaccinated skewing of the most severe of outcomes remains. More than 62 per cent of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in Canadians older than 60. Meanwhile, of more than 12,000 COVID-19 deaths where vaccination status was reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 70.3 per cent were of those completely unvaccinated, with another 6.5 per cent partially vaccinated.

So, for the vast majority of working-age adults who are vaccinated and following masking guidance, the statistical risk of experiencing severe disease or worse with COVID-19 is relatively low and must be assessed alongside other health risks Canadians could conceivably experience.

Balancing relative risk is clearly something being grappled with in heavily vaccinated Western countries.

Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden are leading the charge. Sweden announced it will do away with vaccine passports, face masks in some public places and limits on social contacts. Neighbouring Denmark has scrapped most restrictions.

There has also been a flurry of consideration lately of whether COVID-19 will become endemic in the West in 2022, whether the word endemic is even meaningful and if a boom-and-bust epidemic is the likelihood for quite some time to come.

“What we need to do going forward, as we emerge out of this Omicron wave, is recognize this virus is not going to disappear. We need to be able to address the ongoing presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a more sustainable way,” Tam said. “Further waves will occur. Some will be quite severe and disruptive and we need to be ready for them. But we do need to have longer-term, sustained approaches and capacity-building so we’re not in a crisis mode all the time as we fight this virus.”

Looming over the entire conversation is that fact that Canada’s health-care system was stretched even before the pandemic arrived, with stories of “hallway medicine” common. Currently, there are still more than 10,000 people being treated in hospital on any given day, federal health officials said Friday, with 1,100 of them on average in intensive care units.

For a similar conversation, watch the video clip below.

From CBC News

Could Canada start soon to pull back on COVID-19 restrictions?

Canada’s chief science adviser Mona Nemer joins Power & Politics to discuss the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada and what to expect in the months ahead. 6:17

Canada lost 200,000 jobs in January as Omicron hit hard 

Canada’s economy lost 200,000 jobs last month, according to Statistics Canada, as COVID-19 shutdowns related to the Omicron variant saw many businesses close up shop.

Economists had been expecting a bleak figure, but the 200,000 lost jobs was roughly twice what they were anticipating.

The data agency reported Friday that the decline pushed the unemployment rate up half a per cent, to 6.5 per cent. It was the first increase to Canada’s jobless rate since April 2021.

Most of the job losses were concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, two provinces that saw some of the hardest and earliest surges of the Omicron-driven wave, and which both moved to enact the most significant societal restrictions on movement and activity since at least last spring.

As was the case during previous waves, accommodation and food services bore the brunt, with 113,000 jobs lost during the month. Another public-facing industry, retail, was also hit hard, losing 26,000 workers. Average hourly wages grew a “tepid” 2.4 per cent year over year, said economist Royce Mendes with Desjardins, despite a worker shortage across sectors ranging from information technology to trucking.

But Mendes said there is reason for optimism. Goods-producing industries actually added 23,000 jobs during the month, he noted, a sign that parts of the economy may have turned the corner.

“Virus-related hospitalizations appear to have peaked at the national level, which has allowed provincial governments to ease restrictions and made Canadians feel a bit safer about venturing out of their homes again,” he said. “That’s the beginnings of a recipe for another swift post-COVID-wave rebound.”

Before Friday, the widespread view was that COVID-19’s highly transmissible Omicron variant had kept people home and held down hiring in January in the United States as well.

Instead, employers there added 467,000 jobs. The U.S. government’s report Friday also drastically revised upward its estimate of job gains for November and December by a combined 709,000.

While Canada has 10 provinces and three territories, with nearly all enacting some kind of COVID-19 restrictions as Omicron cases mushroomed, in the U.S. a significant number of the 50 states have stopped limiting societal movement.

While that policy approach may have placed undue strain on the health-care systems of some states, it has meant economic activity levels are closer to a pre-pandemic state.

Omicron did leave some fingerprints on the American report: The percentage of Americans who were working from home rose to more than 15 per cent, up from 11 per cent in December. And the number of people out sick last month soared to 3.6 million, up from fewer than two million in the previous January and about triple the pre-pandemic level.

But job openings in the U.S. are near historically high levels as companies seek to rebuild staff or pivot in response to changes in consumer demand, and there aren’t enough workers to fill all the positions. Nearly four million Americans on average quit their jobs each month in 2021, with some able to exercise leverage with employers in the service industries or on the low end of the wage scale who are offering bonuses, wage increases and other enticements to fill positions.

While the American unemployment rate ticked up from 3.9 per cent to four per cent, the labour participation rate rose, meaning the pool of people looking for work in the job market, grew.

Advisory body recommends waiting at least 3 months for a booster after a COVID-19 infection

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) announced new guidance on Friday on vaccine intervals for those who’ve contracted COVID-19.

For vaccinated individuals aged 12 and up who are eligible for a third dose, the recommendations suggest waiting three months after the onset of symptoms, or following a positive test for anyone who was asymptomatic — while also being at least six months out from a second dose. Those who experienced SARS-CoV-2 infection before starting or completing their primary COVID-19 vaccine series may receive their next dose eight weeks after symptoms started or after testing positive, according to the guidelines.

“A longer interval between infection and vaccination may result in a better immune response as this allows time for this response to mature in breadth and strength, and for circulating antibodies to decrease, thus avoiding immune interference when the vaccine is administered,” the NACI team wrote in the recommendations released Friday.

NACI did provide the caveat that there is currently “insufficient clinical or real-world data” to inform guidance on a specific interval between infection and vaccination.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and researcher with the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, told CBC News the new guidelines seem reasonable.

“There’s evidence that longer intervals between immune exposure [through vaccination or infection] result in more durable immunity,” she said. “So letting the immune system return to baseline prior to boosting makes sense to maximize the response the booster will elicit.”

The Omicron variant has demonstrated, among other factors, an ability to evade vaccine protection. While that may encourage people who’ve been infected by the variant to believe they have a degree of immunity for some time to come as a result, there are early signals that layering vaccination and infection may provide broader immunity for most individuals than just infection alone.

“If you’ve had Omicron, you’re probably good for a minimum of three months before you’d really have to worry about catching it again, unless the next variant is super, super different than something we’ve seen before,” Bruce Mazer, a professor of pediatrics at McGill University in Montreal and associate scientific director of the COVID Immunity Task Force, told CBC recently.

“It really depends on how the virus mutates,” said Mazer. “If the virus stays the same as the ones that we’ve been vaccinated against, or Omicron, then you’ve got good protection for a while. Unfortunately, if it mutates again, then we don’t know.”

Read the full story

COVID-19 cases in First Nations communities by region during the Omicron wave

Find out more about COVID-19

For full coverage of how your province or territory is responding to COVID-19, visit your local CBC News site.

To get this newsletter daily as an email, subscribe here.

See the answers to COVID-19 questions asked by CBC viewers and readers.

Still looking for more information on the pandemic? Reach out to us at [email protected] if you have any questions.

Source link