Canada·Coronavirus Brief

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for Nov. 10

The latest on the coronavirus outbreak for November 10th.
People jump into the water from the Orakei Wharf in Auckland, New Zealand, on Wednesday. Several COVID-19 lockdown restrictions eased in the South Pacific country, including at malls, libraries, museums and zoos. (Fiona Goodall/Reuters)

Manitoba officials concerned about case trend, extend 3rd dose eligibility to everyone over 18

Manitoba's top doctor is hinting at further restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 as Manitoba recorded another triple-digit daily case count and an increase in the five-day test positivity rate.

While the case total of 143 new COVID-19 infections might at first glance seem modest, on a per capita basis it is added to a seven-day case total that now sees Manitoba ranked second-highest to only Saskatchewan among Canadian provinces. (You can see the trendlines for the provinces in a graphic further down in this newsletter.)

The highest number of cases reported Wednesday was in the Southern Health region, which has 66 new cases, followed by Winnipeg with 33 new cases. The positivity rate has increased to 6.2 per cent provincewide, with a nearly 16 per cent rate in the Southern Health region.

The current trends are going "in the wrong direction" and are impacting all regions, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said during the news conference.

"We've been at this for so long, but we're going to need to ask Manitobans for their further adherence, their further co-operation as we navigate this fourth wave."

Of the new cases reported, 84 were in people not vaccinated, 54 were in fully vaccinated people and five were reported in people only partially vaccinated.

That 38 per cent total for fully vaccinated individuals would seem to be playing a part in the decision by Manitoba to extend eligibility for third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to everyone in the province aged 18 and older.

"Right now a combination of waning immunity for some individuals, and too many people who are still unvaccinated, is a health risk that we want to avoid as much as possible," Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine task force, said during a news conference.

The announcement represents a shift away from eligibility-based criteria to restrict who can, and can't, receive a booster dose, said Reimer. Six months need to have elapsed between a second shot and third shot, officials said.

Reimer said data suggests those at greater risk of adverse outcomes are experiencing waning immunity more over time than other groups, which underscores the need for those people to get third doses.

That list includes health-care workers, people 70 and over, those living in personal care homes or congregate settings, including assisted living, pregnant people and Indigenous people. The same goes for people with some chronic health conditions, including cardiac or pulmonary disorders, diabetes, obesity and a range of others listed on the province's eligibility webpage.

Provincial officials also said they have secured more than 2,000 doses of the single-shot Janssen vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which has been barely used in Canada. Manitoba officials now recommend those who receive the Janssen jab also later receive a second dose of either of the two mRNA-based vaccines; in the U.S. the recommendation for boosters after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes as little as two months after the initial shot.

From The National

Indoor ventilation key to COVID-19 safety this winter, experts say

1 year ago
Duration 2:34
With another COVID-19 winter around the corner, experts are reminding people that ventilation can make indoor spaces safer, particularly when combined with distancing, masks and vaccinations.


How some Canadian travellers are getting free COVID-19 tests in the U.S. to return home

Travellers entering Canada must provide proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departing flight or planned arrival at the land border. Those molecular tests — such as the popular PCR test — can cost hundreds of dollars, proving to be something of an obstacle as the United States opened its borders to widespread vehicle traffic at the beginning of the week.

The testing requirement has sparked protests from politicians and tourism groups on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border who complain the tests can be cost-prohibitive.

While travellers may not be guaranteed to get their test results in time and may not find free tests at their specific U.S. destination, CBC News has interviewed six Canadians who recently travelled south of the border and got a free molecular test at a pharmacy or a clinic before their return to Canada.

"It's mind-blowing to think that people are paying $200 for those tests," said Andrew D'Amours, who is the co-founder of the travel information website Flytrippers.

D'Amours, of Trois-Rivières, Que., has taken three free tests in the U.S. and written about the topic for his site.

Four of the Canadians interviewed used a Walgreens drive-thru site to take a free, self-administered Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) test, which is listed as an accepted test by the Canadian government. Each traveller said they pre-booked their test online at least one day in advance and got their results within three hours of testing.

D'Amours has twice taken a NAAT test at Walgreens: once in May in Newark, N.J., and the second time on Sunday in Baton Rouge, La. He said the NAAT tests are the best option for Canadians because they provide quick results.

The tests that Canadian travellers have received aren't actually free, but instead funded by the U.S. government. It has put measures in place to make low or no-cost COVID-19 tests available to everyone in the U.S., including those who don't have U.S. medical insurance. That said, there have been complaints about adequate supply in the U.S., given that countries such as Germany and Britain provided such tests for free beginning in early spring.

Read the full story

World roundup: Europe driving past week's rise in cases, WHO says

The World Health Organization reported Wednesday that coronavirus deaths rose by 10 per cent in Europe in the past week, making it the only world region where both COVID-19 cases and deaths are steadily increasing.

In its weekly report on the pandemic, the United Nations health agency said there were about 3.1 million new cases globally, about a one per cent increase from the previous week. Nearly two-thirds of the coronavirus infections — 1.9 million — were in Europe, where cases rose by seven per cent.

The number of weekly COVID-19 deaths fell by about four per cent worldwide and declined in every region except Europe.

Out of the 61 countries WHO includes in its European region, which includes Russia and stretches to Central Asia, 42 per cent reported a jump in cases of at least 10 per cent in the last week.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia are among the countries reporting fresh surges in coronavirus infections, with both limiting non-urgent hospital care to cater to admissions of COVID-19 patients.

Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million, reported a record-high 7,055 new cases for Tuesday, and the Czech Republic, twice the size, reported 14,539 cases, not far from an all-time peak seen in January. Daily death rates have approached or crossed 50 in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia in recent days.

"It is kind of déjà vu of what we saw last year," Petr Smejkal, head epidemiologist at the Prague IKEM hospital and a member of the government team studying health risks, said in a broadcast media interview. Smejkal was referring to a 2020 autumn surge amid a lack of government action that put the country among the worst-affected countries in Europe.

Czech hospitalizations rose to 3,295, including 462 people in intensive care. In Slovakia, hospitalizations stood at 2,478, and 79.8 per cent of those patients were not fully vaccinated, Health Ministry data showed.

With 58.7 per cent of the total population vaccinated, the Czech Republic ranks below the EU average of 64.6 per cent, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Slovakia's vaccination rate is even lower, at 44.8 per cent.

In the Americas, WHO said that new weekly cases fell by five per cent and deaths declined by 14 per cent, with the highest numbers reported from the United States.

More than 900,000 U.S. children aged five to 11 are expected to have received their first COVID-19 vaccine shot by the end of Wednesday, the White House COVID-19 team said, with an expectation numbers will pick up as hundreds of clinics and pharmacies are now capable of offering the shots.

The Biden administration team presented slides indicating that 66 Americans aged five to 11 have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic. It was a total greater than the combined totals of the average annual deaths from hepatitis A, meningococcus and chickenpox — all of which are associated with recommended pediatric vaccines to prevent infections or disease.

In Asia, Bangladesh will be the first country to start selling a generic version of Merck's antiviral pill, local Beximco Pharmaceuticals said on Tuesday. The company will "soon" launch sales of a cheaper version of molnupiravir following local regulatory approval.

Molnupiravir pill has been authorized in Britain and its trial data is being actively studied by several countries, including in Canada.

Today's graphic

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With files from Reuters, The Canadian Press, The Associated Press