Here’s your update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for Aug. 9, 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.
Here are the latest B.C. figures given on Aug. 4:
• Hospitalized cases: 410
• Intensive care: 38
• New cases: 938 over seven days ending July 30
• Total number of confirmed cases: 379,274
• Total deaths over seven days ending July 30: 28 (total 3,940)
Read the full report here | Next update: Aug. 11 at 3 p.m. (or later)
Headlines at a glance
• Quebec reported another 25 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, and Canada’s worst-hit province has now lost more than 16,000 lives since the start of the pandemic.
• Russian players competing in Canada’s tennis open, unvaccinated Djokovic is not.
• More Chinese women delay or give up on having babies after zero-COVID ordeal.
• Chinese authorities have closed famed Potala Palace in Tibet after COVID-19 outbreak.
• EU regulator begins review of Pfizer-BioNTech’s variant-adapted COVID shot.
• COVID vaccine maker Novovax tumbles after cutting annual sales forecast by half
• Ottawa cop facing disciplinary hearing for allegedly accessing child death files looking for links to COVID vaccines.
• The Spokane Braves are pulling out of the upcoming Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season because the team can’t find enough players vaccinated against COVID-19 to fill the roster.
• A new study aims to arm parents with tools to help their kids overcome fears of needles and pain when getting their COVID-19 vaccine.
• Canada’s airlines and railways exempted 1,700 travellers from vaccine requirement.
• BioNTech sinks after lagging COVID-19 vaccine orders.
• The latest weekly report from B.C. health officials.
• Pandemic benefit programs targeting workers were effective, but businesses were over-subsidized
• Seventh wave of COVID-19 in Ontario has peaked, chief medical officer of health says
Quebec on Tuesday reported 25 new deaths attributed to COVID-19, bringing the province’s total death toll since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to 16,069.
The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 continued its decline, with 2,038 reported on Tuesday, down from 2,109 on Friday. Of the 2,038 in hospital, 58 are in intensive care, one more than reported on Friday.
The province also reported 1,243 new cases for a total of 1,157,876. The number of cases is not necessarily representative of the situation because access to testing centres is restricted to priority patients, but the number of new cases has been declining in recent weeks, and Tuesday’s number was less than last Tuesday’s.
— Montreal Gazette
Superstar tennis athletes find themselves playing out the tensions of the world on the courts. While being Russian or Belarusian gets you banned from competing at Wimbledon, in Canada, it depends on whether you will agree to get vaccinated.
Russian and Belarusian players will be competing at the National Bank Open in Montreal and Toronto, but unvaccinated Novak Djokovic will not.
Djokovic was famously deported from Australia in January after having his visa cancelled twice for refusing to get vaccinated, banning him from playing at the Australian Open.
His vaccination status still prevents him from participating in tournaments, including the National Bank Open in Montreal. It remains unclear whether he will compete at upcoming tournaments in Cleveland, and the season’s final big event, the U.S. Open in late August to early September.
— National Post
HONG KONG — Seeing Chinese authorities exercise extraordinary powers during a stringent COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai earlier this year altered Claire Jiang’s life plans: she no longer wants to have babies in China.
During the April-May lockdown, the hashtag “we are the last generation” briefly went viral on Chinese social media before being censored.
The phrase echoed the response of a man who was visited by authorities in hazmat suits threatening to punish his family for three generations for non-compliance with COVID rules.
“That really resonated,” said Jiang, who internalized the man’s remark as her own answer to the motherhood question.
“I definitely don’t want my children to have to carry the uncertainty of living in a country where the government can just come to your door and do whatever they want,” said the 30-year-old, who works in the media industry.
Studies have shown that pandemics and economic uncertainty historically weigh on birth rates around the world.
But, particular to China, its uncompromising “zero-COVID” policy of promptly stamping out any outbreaks with strict controls on people’s lives may have caused profound damage on their desire to have children, demographers say.
Chinese authorities have closed Tibet’s famed Potala Palace after a minor outbreak of COVID-19 was reported in the Himalayan region.
The response underscores China’s continued adherence to its “zero-COVID” policy, mandating lockdowns, routine testing, quarantines and travel restrictions, even while most other countries have reopened.
A notice on the palace’s Weixin social media site said the palace that was the traditional home of Tibet’s Buddhist leaders would be closed from Tuesday, with a reopening date to be announced later.
Tibet’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism and the Potala is a key draw.
Read the full story here.
— The Associated Press
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has started a rolling review of a variant-adapted COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, it said on Tuesday.
The so-called bivalent vaccine targets two strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind COVID – the original strain first identified in China, and the Omicron offshoots BA.4/5 that are currently behind most cases in Europe.
A rolling review means the EMA assesses the data as it becomes available, and the process continues until there is enough data for a formal marketing application.
Last month, the EMA said it had begun a rolling review of another version of the companies’ shot which targets the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and Omicron subvariant BA.1.
Read the full story here.
COVID vaccine maker Novovax tumbles after cutting annual sales forecast by half
Novavax Inc. shares lost a third of their value after the drugmaker slashed its 2022 revenue forecast as its Covid-19 vaccine — which trailed competitors getting to market — failed to live up to expectations.
Sales for the year will be as much as $2.3 billion, which is less than half the previous expected peak of $5 billion, the company said Monday in a statement. Novavax also reported a second-quarter loss of $6.53 a share, which was wider than analysts’ average estimate of $5.24.
The Gaithersburg, Maryland-based company’s shares cratered, falling as much as 36% after US markets closed Monday. They were trading down more than 31% in pre-market trading Tuesday.
Ottawa cop faces misconduct charges for allegedly seeking links between COVID vaccine and child deaths
An Ottawa police officer is facing misconduct charges for allegedly inserting herself into child death investigations looking for connections to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Investigators with the Ottawa Police Service’s professional standards unit allege Const. Helen Grus committed discreditable conduct when she took on a private investigative project to find the vaccination status of parents whose infants or children had died.
Between June 2020 and January 2022, Grus allegedly accessed nine child or infant death cases in which she had no investigative role. On Jan. 30, 2022, Grus also allegedly interfered directly with an investigation into an infant’s death by contacting the father of a deceased baby to inquire about the mother’s COVID-19 vaccination status without the lead investigator’s knowledge.
— Ottawa Citizen
The lone American team in a junior B hockey league based in B.C. is pulling out of the upcoming season because it can’t find enough players vaccinated against COVID-19 to fill its roster.
Kootenay International Junior Hockey League announced last week that the Spokane Braves will not participate in its 2022-23 season.
Commissioner Jeff Dubois said in a statement that the Braves found it challenging to fill a roster “despite their best efforts,” and will miss what would have been the franchise’s 50th anniversary season.
Dubois said the Braves will be welcomed to rejoin the league when able to do so.
Canadian COVID-19 protocols require visitors to be fully vaccinated in order to enter the country. Canadian players on the league’s 19 B.C.-based teams would also have to be vaccinated to enter the United States for road games in Spokane.
The league said it will go on with 19 teams this season, and teams that were scheduled to face the Chiefs will make up those games against other opponents.
— The Canadian Press
A new University of Calgary study aims to arm parents with tools to help their kids overcome fears of needles and pain when getting their COVID-19 vaccine.
The study is recruiting families from across Canada with children aged four to 11 who have not yet been immunized against the novel coronavirus.
“We want our kids to be vaccinated, and there’s a lot of excitement right now among many that Health Canada has approved COVID-19 vaccines for kids under five,” said Dr. Melanie Noel, a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute as well as a professor of clinical psychology at the U of C.
“What we know is that these vaccine injections can be stressful, they can be painful, they can be scary for some families. What we’re really excited about is that as a team of researchers, we know the simple but powerful things we can do to make these vaccine injections less painful, less scary, and actually empowering for kids and families.”
The remote study will give families resources and strategies which can help make pediatric vaccinations easier. These include using numbing cream, distractions and changing the way they talk to kids about shots.
Read the full story here.
— The Calgary Herald
In the first five months that unvaccinated Canadians were banned by the federal government from boarding planes and trains, rail operators and airlines granted roughly 1,700 exemptions to allow the unvaccinated to travel.
The information is contained in a government affidavit, filed in response to two lawsuits against the federal government’s travel vaccination mandates, announced in the lead-up to the 2021 election and brought into effect on Oct. 30, 2021.
The lawsuit was launched by Karl Harrison and Shaun Rickard. It was joined with another suit launched by People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, former Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford, and others. All challenge the constitutionality of the travel mandates, arguing they infringe upon charter rights to mobility, life, liberty and security of the person and equality rights.
Yet, when the travel mandate came into effect last October, the government ensured there were exemptions so that travellers could move around the country, including for those who live in remote communities.
Read the full story here.
— Postmedia News
BioNTech sinks as COVID vaccine sales and profit disappoint
BioNTech SE dropped the most in more than three months as lagging COVID-19 vaccine orders held sales and profit short of analysts’ expectations.
Revenue in the second quarter dropped by about 40 per cent, BioNTech said on Monday. Diluted earnings per share were 6.45 euros, below the 7.44-euro average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
BioNTech and partner Pfizer Inc. are counting on an omicron-adapted vaccine to reinvigorate sales for the rest of the year. The first doses of a shot tailored for both the original coronavirus and the fast-spreading omicron BA.4/5 variant should be ready in October, in time for fall booster campaigns, BioNTech said. The companies will begin a clinical trial this month and manufacturing has already started.
BioNTech still expects to hit a target of 13 billion euros ($13.2 billion) to 17 billion euros in vaccine revenues this year, with demand increasing in the fourth quarter once the new shot is available. Rival Moderna Inc. has said it will start delivering fall boosters in September.
Meanwhile, Pfizer Inc will buy blood disorder drugmaker Global Blood Therapeutics in a $5.4 billion deal, as it looks to boost its pipeline to combat a potential slowdown in COVID product demand that analysts anticipate from falling cases.
New York-based Pfizer, flush with cash from sales of its COVID-19 vaccine last year, has been on the lookout for acquisitions that could bring in billions in annual sales by the end of the decade.
Pfizer said on Monday it will pay $68.50 per Global Blood share, representing a premium of about 7.3% to the stock’s closing price on Friday.
— Bloomberg and Reuters
Benefits rolled out at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed vulnerable Canadians to stay healthy while maintaining an income, but business supports were excessive and show the outsized influence of business groups on public policy, economists say.
Nearly two and a half years ago, the federal government faced an unprecedented task of shutting down the economy to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19. That shutdown led to a series of pandemic relief benefits aimed at softening the blow to workers and businesses, with the two most prominent programs being the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
Recent analysis from Statistics Canada based on census data shows two-thirds of Canadian adults received pandemic benefits in 2020, with these benefits cushioning income losses and reducing inequality.
— The Canadian Press
Some 80,000 tourists are stranded in the southern Chinese beach resort of Sanya, after authorities declared it a COVID-19 hot spot and imposed a lockdown.
The restrictions came into force on Saturday morning, as authorities sought to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the city on tropical Hainan Island. There were 229 confirmed cases on Friday and an additional 129 on Saturday.
China’s ruling Communist Party sticks steadfastly to a “zero-COVID” approach that is increasingly at odds with the rest of the world. A recent outbreak in Shanghai spread so widely that authorities locked down the entire city, China’s largest, for two months, trapping millions of people and dealing a blow to the national economy.
Railway authorities banned all ticket sales in Sanya while all flights were also canceled on Saturday.
Tourists wanting to depart Sanya have to test negative for the coronavirus on five PCR tests over seven days, authorities said.
— The Associated Press
Vaccinated and masked college students had virtually no chance of catching COVID-19 in the classroom last fall, according to a sweeping study of 33,000 Boston University students that bolsters standard prevention measures.
The researchers screened the college’s health records to find nine sets of students who developed COVID at about the same time, were in class together without social distancing and had no known contact outside school, suggesting that they might have transmitted it in the classroom. However, genome analysis of coronavirus samples from the groups showed that all of them more likely were infected in other places.
— Bloomberg News
The seventh wave of COVID-19 in Ontario has peaked, the province’s chief medical officer of health said Friday.
Dr. Kieran Moore said in an interview that key indicators are peaking or already trending downward. “I think we’ve already started on the downswing,” he said.
“It’s always easier to look back and say where we were, but from our vantage point just today, it certainly has stabilized and we’re seeing a decrease in the overall number of people hospitalized, stabilization in ICU, which are typically late indicators, and at a provincial level the wastewater is on the decrease.”
Public Health Ontario says COVID-19 case rates decreased in 22 of Ontario’s 34 health units for the week ending July 30, with per cent positivity down slightly week over week, and hospital admissions decreasing to 306 compared to 463 the previous week.
— Canadian Press
Weekly data for B.C.: 28 more deaths reported, small uptick in hospitalizations
The latest data from B.C. health officials shows that several people continue to lose their battle with COVID-19 each day, a trend that has been stubbornly consistent for several weeks.
Twenty-eight more people died with COVID-19 in the province in the seven days ending July 30. There were 29 deaths in the week before that and 21 in data from two weeks ago. An average of just over three patients a day died with COVID-19 through the month of July.
Overall, 3,940 have died in B.C. since the start of the pandemic.
New cases, hospitalizations and the number of patients needing critical care all ticked up in the current data as well. There were 410 people in hospital with COVID-19 as of Thursday, up nine from a week earlier; 38 of those patients were in intensive care, a rise of three.
Some 983 new cases were reported in the week ending July 30, though limits on COVID testing mean that number doesn’t accurately reflect the prevalence of the virus in the B.C. population.
The new case data does confirm that the latest variant of the novel coronavirus is widespread in the province, with a significant number of cases in every B.C. health region.
— Joseph Ruttle
Quebec will begin offering an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine to vulnerable seniors and long-term care residents, the province’s public health director said Thursday as Quebec surpassed 16,000 pandemic deaths.
Dr. Luc Boileau said teams will travel to long-term care and seniors’ homes to offer a booster on site beginning Aug. 15.
At the same time, members of the general public will be able to begin booking appointments, beginning with those 80 and over, health workers and people in remote communities, he said.
Because immunity wanes over time, Boileau said it’s important for people to stay up to date on vaccinations, especially those who are more vulnerable.
“We invite all citizens who have that profile, especially those who are older, more vulnerable and with chronic illnesses, to take advantage of that vaccination,” he said. He said a new dose is recommended five months after the previous one, although those who have been infected with COVID-19 in the meantime can wait a little longer if they prefer.
— The Canadian Press
What are B.C.’s current public health measures?
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.
How do I get vaccinated in B.C.?
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.
Where can I get a COVID-19 test?
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.
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