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Coronavirus  

Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer shipments to slow down

Revising vaccine plans

Quebec and Ontario, the two provinces hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, say a decision by drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech to slow vaccine shipments in the coming weeks will mean changes to their respective game plans.

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams said the company's decision to delay international vaccine shipments to upgrade production facilities will likely have an effect on the province, though the full impact of the move is not yet known.

Williams said in a statement today that long-term care residents, caregivers and staff who already received their first dose of Pfizer's vaccine will receive their second dose between 21 and 27 days later, no more than a week longer than originally planned.

But that time frame will be longer for anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with second doses being delivered anywhere from 21 to 42 days after the initial shot.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday the reduced shipments mean that 86,775 of the 176,475 doses of the vaccine expected until Feb. 8 won't be delivered as planned.

Health officials are establishing a new distribution plan, but the Quebec Health Department said the strategy to immunize as many people as possible within priority groups will be maintained.



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New COVID cases fall in Central Okanagan, rise elsewhere in Okanagan

New cases up and down

New cases of COVID-19 continue to drop in the Central Okanagan, while they're rising across much of the rest of the Okanagan.

On Friday evening, two days later than usual, the BC Centre for Disease published the latest map of new COVID-19 cases by local health area, the most detailed geographical data the province releases.

Between Jan. 3 and 9, 110 people in the Central Okanagan contracted the virus, down from 139 the week before and nearly half of the new cases in the region from the week before that. This gives the area a weekly rate of 52 infections per 100,000 people, which is significantly less than the provincial average of 75.

But the Central Okanagan is one of the few areas in the region that continues to move in the right direction.

The South Okanagan saw weekly cases jump to 43, up from 27. This puts the region at a rate of 211 weekly infections per 100,000 people, one of the highest rates of infection in B.C. New cases in the region have been largely attributed to outbreaks at two care homes, including the McKinney Place care home where 17 residents have died.

Cases in the Kettle Valley area more than doubled the new cases from the week before, with nine new cases. With a population of just 3,591 people, the nine new cases give the region a shockingly high weekly rate of infection of 250 per 100,000 people.

In the Vernon area, 98 new cases were identified from Jan. 3 to 9, up from 76 the week before, while cases in Penticton have remained relatively low, with 13 new cases, compared to 15 the week prior.

Five new cases were identified in the Grand Forks region, up from zero the week before, while new cases also rose dramatically in the Salmon Arm region, to 17 from just four from the week prior.

New cases stayed relatively stable in the Kamloops region, while cases rose in the Cariboo regions.

Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said cases have been rising across the entire Interior Health region, largely stemming from holiday gatherings and other small social gatherings.

To date, 46 people in the Interior have died from COVID-19, including 31 who were residents of long-term care homes.



UBC expert addresses COVID-19 'vaccine hesitancy' in Canada

'They work and are safe'

While many Canadians are still apprehensive about getting immunized against COVID-19, a recent poll suggests that the majority are willing to roll up their sleeves.

Angus Reid polled Canadians this month and found that a firm majority – 60 per cent of respondents – are now willing to be immunized.

But while more people are willing to take the vaccine, 23 per cent of respondents indicated they would prefer to wait, while 12 per cent reported they would not get vaccinated and five per cent remained unsure.

The number of those who outright say they will not be vaccinated is below one-in-ten, for example, in British Columbia (8%) and Ontario (8%) but is one-in-five in Alberta (20%) and Saskatchewan (19%). In those two latter provinces, just half of residents say they would like to be vaccinated right away.

Why are some people hesitant about taking a COVID-19 vaccine?

Dr. Julie Bettinger, an associate professor in UBC’s faculty of medicine, is a vaccine safety scientist at the Vaccine Evaluation Center at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and a member of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

For Bettinger, the "newness" of the vaccine causes reluctance for some people. "Many are concerned about whether or not the vaccine will work, about short- and long-term safety of the vaccine, about its “newness” and the unknowns that come with a new vaccine," she explains in a news release.

Bettinger adds that most of these concerns can be addressed. Further, the two vaccines Canada is currently using--the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines-- work incredibly well.

"The clinical trial results were striking in terms of efficacy. We expect to see some decrease in terms of how well these vaccines will work when used in real-life settings, but given how well they performed in clinical trial settings they will still be very effective," she says.

What can be done to combat vaccine hesitancy?

Currently, British Columbia isn't seeing an issue with vaccine hesitancy since there is such a limited supply of vaccines. That said, Bettinger notes that improving vaccine literacy--especially among children--is key to combating the issue down the road.

"It’s important to educate yourself and your friends and family about the immune system and how vaccines work. Recognize and counter vaccine misinformation and disinformation, in-person and online," she advises.

"There is no debate in the scientific community about vaccines. They work and are safe."

Will Canada reach herd immunity if not everyone is vaccinated against COVID-19?

Bettinger says that health officials don't know if any of the vaccines will lead to herd immunity. "We know they prevent symptomatic disease, but we don’t know if they stop transmission of COVID-19. If they can stop transmission, then it would require high vaccine coverage to reach herd immunity."

Short-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines

For the most part, Berttinger says people can expect a sore arm after receiving the vaccine. And while some may feel like they are sick for two or three days--like they have a cold or the flu--they will generally feel fine after that time. "These are normal side effects to the vaccine and demonstrate the immune system is responding."

That being said, some people do have allergic reactions following vaccination. However, Bettinger says this is expected and reactions "are not occurring at a rate higher than what we would expect with a new vaccine."

Long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines

In terms of long-term side effects from the vaccine, Bettinger says "we don’t have the data and will need to continue to monitor to ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines."

With this in mind, she adds, "We also don’t know the long-term effects of being infected with COVID-19. But what is emerging shows there are long-term effects from COVID-19 infection, such as “brain fog,” which severely alter an individual’s health.

"Based on what we know about how COVID-19 vaccines work, we would not expect them to have long-term adverse effects."



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COVID cases identified on 13 recent flights in B.C.

More COVID on B.C. flights

The BC Centre for Disease Control has identified 13 more B.C. flights on which passengers may have been exposed to the coronavirus while travelling this month.

All but two of the recent affected flights involved the Vancouver International Airport, and none involve Kelowna.

The public health agency warned passengers that they could have been exposed to COVID-19 while onboard the following recent flights:

  • Jan 5: Air Canada 127, Toronto to Vancouver (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 5: American Airlines 1539, Dallas to Vancouver (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 6: American Airlines 1539, Dallas to Vancouver (Affected rows 9-13)
  • Jan 7: Air Canada 107, Toronto to Vancouver (Affected rows 1-6)
  • Jan 7: Air Canada 344, Vancouver to Ottawa (Affected rows16-22)
  • Jan 8: WestJet 3176, Abbotsford to Calgary (Affected rows 15-20)
  • Jan 9: Air Canada 115, Toronto to Vancouver (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 8: Lufthansa 492, Frankfurt to Vancouver (Affected rows 23-25)
  • Jan 9: WestJet 725, Toronto to Vancouver (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 10: Air Canada 106, Vancouver to Toronto (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 10: Air Canada 241, Edmonton to Vancouver (Affected rows not reported)
  • Jan 11: Air Canada 305, Montreal to Vancouver (Affected rows 14-20)
  • Jan 11: WestJet 3231, Calgary to Abbotsford (Affected rows 15-20)

This announcement is the latest in a string of notifications identifying recent flights that carried one or more individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 since their flight. This week alone, the BCCDC already added 65 recent flights to its list of possible COVID-19 exposures.

With the number of new COVID-19 cases remaining in the hundreds each day, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry implemented new orders last month instructing British Columbians to avoid any non-essential travel outside their home communities. As of this week, those orders have been extended until at least Feb. 5.

The BCCDC is encouraging travellers who recently arrived in B.C. to check the public health agency's website for updates about flights identified for potential exposures. Passengers who flew aboard a domestic flight flagged for carrying a COVID-19 case are encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days following their flight.

While self-monitoring for symptoms of the virus— which may include fever, cough, chills, sore throat, loss of sense of smell or taste and many more—individuals should take and record their temperature daily, and avoid taking fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, if possible, for the full 14 days. The average normal body temperature taken orally is about 37°C, according to the BCCDC.



India starts world's largest COVID-19 vaccination drive

Largest vaccination drive

India started inoculating health workers Saturday in what is likely the world's largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign, joining the ranks of wealthier nations where the effort is already well underway.

India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs. But there is no playbook for the enormity of the current challenge.

Indian authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people, roughly the population of the U.S and several times more than its existing program that targets 26 million infants. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers, to be followed by 270 million people who are either over 50 years old or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.

For workers who have pulled India’s battered healthcare system through the pandemic, the shots offered confidence that life can start returning to normal. Many burst with pride.

“I am excited that I am among the first to get the vaccine,” Gita Devi, a nurse, said as she lifted her left sleeve to receive the shot.

“I am happy to get an India-made vaccine and that we do not have to depend on others for it,” said Devi, who has treated patients throughout the pandemic in a hospital in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state in India's heartland.

The first dose was administered to a sanitation worker at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital, New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the campaign with a nationally televised speech.

“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumours about the safety of the vaccines.”

It was not clear whether Modi, 70, had received the vaccine himself like other world leaders to try to demonstrate the shot’s safety. His government has said politicians will not be considered priority groups in the first phase of the rollout.

Health officials haven’t specified what percentage of India's nearly 1.4 billion people will be targeted by the campaign. But experts say it will almost certainly be the largest such drive globally.

The sheer scale has its obstacles and some early snags were identified. For instance, there were delays in uploading the details of healthcare workers receiving the shots to a digital platform that India is using to track vaccines, the Health Ministry said.

Shots were given to at least 165,714 people on Saturday, Dr. Manohar Agnani, a Health Ministry official, said at an evening briefing. The ministry had said that it was aiming to vaccinate 100 people in each of the 3,006 centres across the country.

News cameras captured the injections across hundreds of hospitals, underscoring the pent-up hopes that vaccination was the first step in getting past the pandemic that has devastated the lives of so many Indians and bruised the country's economy.

India on Jan. 4 approved emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech. Cargo planes flew 16.5 million shots to different Indian cities last week.

But doubts over the effectiveness of the homegrown vaccine is creating hurdles for the ambitious plan.

Health experts worry that the regulatory shortcut taken to approve the Bharat Biotech vaccine without waiting for concrete data that would show its efficacy in preventing illness from the coronavirus could amplify vaccine hesitancy. At least one state health minister has opposed its use.

In New Delhi, doctors at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, one of the largest in the city, demanded they be administered the AstraZeneca vaccine instead of the one developed by Bharat Biotech. A doctors union at the hospital said many of its members were a “bit apprehensive about the lack of complete trial” for the homegrown vaccine.

“Right now, we don’t have the option to choose between the vaccines,” said Dr. Nirmalaya Mohapatra, vice-president of the hospital’s Resident Doctors Association.

The Health Ministry has bristled at the criticism and says the vaccines are safe, but maintains that health workers will have no choice in deciding which vaccine they will get themselves.

According to Dr. S.P. Kalantri, the director of a rural hospital in Maharashtra, India’s worst-hit state, such an approach was worrying because he said the regulatory approval was hasty and not backed by science.

“In a hurry to be populist, the government (is) taking decisions that might not be in the best interest of the common man,” Kalantri said.

Against the backdrop of the rising global COVID-19 death toll — it topped 2 million on Friday — the clock is ticking to vaccinate as many people as possible. But the campaign has been uneven.

In wealthy countries including the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada and Germany, millions of citizens have already been given some measure of protection by vaccines developed with revolutionary speed and quickly authorized for use.

But elsewhere, immunization drives have barely gotten off the ground. Many experts are predicting another year of loss and hardship in places like Iran, India, Mexico and Brazil, which together account for about a quarter of the world’s COVID-19 deaths.

India is second to the U.S. with more than 10.5 million confirmed cases, and ranks third in the number of deaths, behind the U.S. and Brazil, with over 152,000.

More than 35 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines have been administered around the world, according to the University of Oxford.

While the majority of the COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been snapped up by wealthy countries, COVAX, a U.N.-backed project to supply shots to developing parts of the world, has found itself short of vaccines, money and logistical help.

As a result, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, warned this week that it is highly unlikely that herd immunity — which would require at least 70% of the globe to be vaccinated — will be achieved this year.

“Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world,” she said.



Staff praised in 'difficult situation' at scene of Vernon COVID outbreak

'Trying times' in outbreak

The manager of Vernon's Heritage Square seniors home – where a COVID-19 outbreak has claimed seven lives – says staff are "doing an amazing job under the most difficult of situations."

“Sadly, Interior Health is finishing the week by reporting that another two people have died due to COVID-19," Interior Health CEO Susan Brown said Friday as the number of cases in the outbreak climbed at Heritage Square.

"Both people passed away in long-term care, bringing the total number of families in IH who have lost loved ones to this pandemic to 46."

Director of operations Wendy Calhoun with home operator Kaigo praised her staff for their hard work under the trying circumstances.

The long-term care home outbreak has seen 58 cases among 44 residents and 14 staff, with seven deaths.

IH declared the outbreak on Dec. 27, when four staff members and six residents tested positive.

At that time, IH said additional infection control and preventive measures were put in place, including enhanced cleaning protocols and COVID-19 visitor policies.

The operator also implemented a temporary stop to all visits across the site as an added precaution.

"We are managing the house under the rules and regulations and guidelines as outlined by Interior Health," said Calhoun.

Contacted by a family member of a resident who told Castanet people are still "coming and going" from the facility, IH spokesperson Susan Duncan confirmed only essential visits are permitted by the Ministry of Health order, "such as visiting residents who are palliative."

"It would be cruel not to let family members see loved ones who are in their final days," she said.

Calhoun reiterated that position, noting the facility has also assisted living residents and staff who come and go.

"People have to come in and out," she said Friday. "That is why we have greeters at the door, to make sure people need to be there, and they are escorted to the resident's room."

She said only essential visitors are allowed under strict guidelines.

Across the Interior Health region, outbreaks continue at Creekside Landing and Noric House long-term care in Vernon, Heritage Retirement Residence in West Kelowna, Village by the Station in Penticton, Mountainview Village in Kelowna, Brocklehurst Gemstone long-term care in Kamloops, and Williams Lake Seniors Village.



Two more people died of COVID-19 at Heritage Square in Vernon

Two more COVID deaths

Two more residents of Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home have died from COVID-19, bringing the total deaths there to seven.

Over the past two days, 12 more residents and four staff members have tested positive at Heritage Square, for a total of 44 residents and 14 staff.

Creekside Landing long-term care in Okanagan Landing has two additional cases with 12 residents and 13 staff testing positive. There has been one death linked to this outbreak.

Vernon's Noric House has had eight more staff members test positive over the last two days for a total of 24 residents and 16 staff.

“Sadly, Interior Health is finishing the week by reporting that another two people have died due to COVID-19. Both people passed away in long-term care, bringing the total number of families in IH who have lost loved ones to this pandemic to 46,” said Susan Brown, IH president and CEO.

“As COVID-19 cases rise throughout the southern Interior, we must redouble our efforts to prevent ongoing spread in the community. It is so important to follow the public health guidance that helps keep you and your loved ones safe from COVID-19: keep to your household bubble, stay home when you are sick, practise physical distancing, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.”

To date, 31 long-term care home residents have died in the Interior.

Other active outbreaks in the Interior Health region include:

  • Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake – six staff cases
  • Brocklehurst Gemstone in Kamloops – three residents and one staff
  • Sunnybank in Oliver – 21 residents (three new) and seven staff, one death
  • Williams Lake Seniors Village – one resident and one staff
  • Heritage Retirement Residence in West Kelowna – 41 residents and five staff, two deaths
  • McKinney Place in Oliver – 55 residents and 23 staff, 17 deaths
  • Village by the Station in Penticton – five residents and five staff, one death
  • Mountainview Village in Kelowna has – eight residents and eight staff, two deaths
  • Teck mining operations remains at 16 cases linked to the outbreak.

There are 13 new cases associated with the Big White cluster for a total of 175 cases and 32 active cases.



B.C. had 509 new COVID-19 cases, nine deaths, in past 24 hours

509 new cases, 9 deaths

In the past 24 hours, 509 more British Columbians were diagnosed with COVID-19, including 86 in the Interior Health region.

The new cases bring the total positive tests in B.C. to 60,117, but there remains 4,604 active cases. Active cases across the province have continued to drop in recent weeks, dropping by 20 since Thursday.

Of the active cases, 349 people are hospitalized, a drop of 13 since Thursday, and 68 are in intensive care.

Nine more people have died from COVID-19 in B.C., including two residents of Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home. To date, 1,047 British Columbians have died from the virus in B.C.

Another 6,168 people received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in B.C., for a total of 75,914.

A new outbreak was declared at Hilltop House care home in Squamish, while two other care home outbreaks were declared over.

Outbreaks remain at 10 Interior long-term care homes and at Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake, where six staff member have tested positive.

Earlier Friday, the federal government announced production issues will temporarily reduce the number of Pfizer vaccines shipped to Canada. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the reduction would have a significant impact in B.C. in the next few weeks, but they would be providing information on that “in the coming days.”



Rate of infection in Thompson region among highest in BC last week

Cases spike near Kamloops

New COVID-19 cases skyrocketed in the Kamloops region last week, with the rate of new infections surpassing most regions in the province.

From Jan. 7 to 13, 282 new cases of the virus were identified among residents of the Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap region – an area that includes Kamloops, Merritt, Revelstoke, 100 Mile House and Lillooet.

This is more than double the number of new cases the health service delivery area saw the previous week, and works out to a rate of just under 120 weekly infections per 100,000 people.

B.C.'s average weekly rate of infection last week was 68.8 per 100,000.

A higher rate of infection last week was only found in the Northwest region of the province – where the rate has skyrocketed to 208 infections per 100,000 – and in the Fraser South and Fraser East regions, at 132 and 122 infections per 100,000 respectively.

While the BC Centre for Disease Control usually releases more granular data every Wednesday, which would show where in the Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap region the new cases are spiking, that data has been delayed this week due to “incomplete data.”

On Wednesday, a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at Kamloops' Brocklehurst Gemstone long-term care home, after four residents tested positive. It's the first care home in Kamloops where residents have tested positive for the virus, after an outbreak at The Hamlets was contained to a single staff member.

An outbreak for Canim Lake was declared on Monday, when IH disclosed 32 positive COVID-19 in the small First Nations community, located 40 kilometres east of 100 Mile House.

Meanwhile, new cases in the Okanagan continued to fall last week with 232 new cases identified from Jan. 7 to 13, down from 303 the week prior. This works out to a weekly infection rate of 59 per 100,000.

New cases in the Kootenay Boundary region dropped to just eight last week, compared to 24 the week before, while there were 21 new cases in the East Kootenay region, up from 14 the previous week.

On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry noted the rising cases in the Interior were directly linked to holiday gatherings and other small social gatherings across the region.

As of Thursday, there are 10 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Interior long-term care homes, where 29 residents have died.



Host of after-hours workplace party slapped with $2,300 COVID fine

$2,300 fine for work party

A West Vancouver man has been fined $2,300 for hosting a loud get together in his place of business after hours, contrary to COVID-19 laws restricting all gatherings.

West Vancouver police responded to a complaint of loud music and voices coming from the business about 11:20 p.m. on Jan. 8.

When officers arrived, they found three men – at least two of them significantly intoxicated – standing outside the premises, says Const. Kevin Goodmurphy. “It ultimately led to them being quite belligerent.”

When questioned by police “they were quick to say it wasn’t a party,” said Goodmurphy.

However the door of the office was propped open and officers could hear voices of other people inside.

One of the men outside told police the other two were his clients, but refused to provide any other information, including how many people were still inside.

Goodmurphy added officers thought it unlikely any legitimate business was taking place inside given “it was almost midnight,” the level of drunkenness apparent and reports of loud music being played.

The 40-year-old host of the get-together, a man associated with the business, refused to co-operate with police, said Goodmurphy, telling officers they couldn’t enter the premises and refusing to tell his guests to leave.

He was issued a $2,300 fine and soon after decided to leave the vicinity without shutting down his event.

Goodmurphy said the authority of police to enter private businesses and residences under the new COVID-19 laws wasn’t clear so officers opted to wait in the vicinity until guests left of their own accord. One group of people left at about 12:30 and a further two people left at around 2:45 a.m., said Goodmurphy.

Around the province, in the last six months, 574 violation tickets have been issued in B.C. for contraventions of COVID-related public health orders.



'This is not a game': Global virus death toll hits 2 million

Global COVID toll tops 2M

The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 2 million Friday, crossing the threshold amid a vaccine rollout so immense but so uneven that in some countries there is real hope of vanquishing the outbreak, while in other, less-developed parts of the world, it seems a far-off dream.

The numbing figure was reached just over a year after the coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The number of dead, compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the population of Brussels, Mecca, Minsk or Vienna.

“There’s been a terrible amount of death," said Dr. Ashish Jha, a pandemic expert and dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health. At the same time, he said, "our scientific community has also done extraordinary work.”

In wealthy countries including the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada and Germany, millions of citizens have already been given some measure of protection with at least one dose of vaccine developed with revolutionary speed and quickly authorized for use.

But elsewhere, immunization drives have barely gotten off the ground. Many experts are predicting another year of loss and hardship in places like Iran, India, Mexico and Brazil, which together account for about a quarter of the world's deaths.

“As a country, as a society, as citizens we haven’t understood,” lamented Israel Gomez, a Mexico City paramedic who spent months shuttling COVID-19 patients around by ambulance, desperately looking for vacant hospital beds. “We have not understood that this is not a game, that this really exists.”

Mexico, a country of 130 million people that has suffered mightily from the virus, has received just 500,000 doses of vaccine and has put barely half of those into the arms of health care workers.

That’s in sharp contrast to the situation for its wealthier northern neighbour. Despite early delays, hundreds of thousands of people are rolling up their sleeves every day in the United States, where the virus has killed about 390,000, by far the highest toll of any country.

While vaccination drives in rich countries have been hamstrung by long lines, inadequate budgets and a patchwork of state and local approaches, the obstacles are far greater in poorer nations, which can have weak health systems, crumbling transportation networks, entrenched corruption and a lack of reliable electricity to keep vaccines cold enough.

Just getting supplies of the shots might be the biggest hurdle in such places.

The majority of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been snapped up by wealthy countries. COVAX, a U.N.-backed project to supply shots to developing parts of the world, has found itself short of vaccine, money and logistical help.

As a result, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned it is highly unlikely that herd immunity — which would require at least 70% of the globe to be vaccinated — will be achieved this year. As the disaster has demonstrated, it is not enough to snuff out the virus in a few places.

“Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world,” Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said this week.

Health experts fear, too, that if shots are not distributed widely and fast enough, it could give the virus time to mutate and defeat the vaccine — “my nightmare scenario,” as Jha put it.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the terrible number of deaths “has been made worse by the absence of a global co-ordinated effort.” He added: “Science has succeeded, but solidarity has failed.”

Meanwhile, in Wuhan, where the scourge was discovered in late 2019, a global team of researchers led by WHO arrived Thursday on a politically sensitive mission to investigate the origins of the virus, which is believed to have spread to humans from wild animals.

The Chinese city of 11 million people is bustling again, with few signs it was once the epicenter of the catastrophe, locked down for 76 days, with over 3,800 dead.

“We are not fearful or worried as we were in the past,” said Qin Qiong, a noodle shop owner. “We now live a normal life. I take the subway every day to come to work in the shop. ... Except for our customers, who have to wear masks, everything else is the same.”

It took eight months to hit 1 million dead but less than four months after that to reach the next million.

While the death toll is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real number of lives lost to is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and the many fatalities inaccurately attributed to other causes, especially early in the outbreak.

“What was never on the horizon is that so many of the deaths would be in the richest countries in the world,” said Dr. Bharat Pankhania, an infectious diseases expert at Britain’s University of Exeter. “That the world’s richest countries would mismanage so badly is just shocking.”

In rich and poor countries alike, the crisis has devastated economies, thrown multitudes out of work and plunged many into poverty.

In Europe, where more than a quarter of the world's deaths have taken place, strict lockdowns and curfews have been reimposed to beat back a resurgence of the virus, and a new variant that is believed to be more contagious is circulating in Britain and other countries, as well as the U.S.



COVID-19 exposure warning issued after case at Salmon Arm pool

Exposure at Shuswap pool

Shuswap residents are being advised of a COVID exposure at a public Salmon Arm facility.

On Jan. 13, Salmon Arm Recreation became aware of an exposure at the SASCU Recreation Centre pool.

Upon learning of the exposure, officials say they launched an extensive deep cleaning of the facility.

As a result of the exposure, several staff have been asked to self isolate, leaving the aquatic centre with limited staff to operate previously scheduled lessons and programs.

Anyone who was at the facility between Jan. 7 and Jan. 11 is being asked to monitor themselves for any signs of COVID-19.

Anyone showing signs of infection is asked to take appropriate measures as directed by the public health officer.



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