COVID-19 update for May 30: Here’s what you need to know

Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the coronavirus situation in B.C. and around the world.

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Here’s your daily update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for May 30, 2022.

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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 throughout the day, 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 figures given on May 26 for May 15 to May 21:

• Hospitalized cases: 473
• Intensive care: 42
• New cases: 1,358 over seven days
• Total number of confirmed cases: 370,559
• Total death over seven days: 42 (total 3,469)

Headlines at a glance

• A new study shows B.C. had one of the lowest mortality rates due to COVID-19 in North America, but it outstrips all provinces for excess deaths during the time of the pandemic.
• Vaccines do little to prevent long COVID: Study
• Researchers are having a hard time explaining why Quebec had Canada’s highest official COVID-19 death toll despite a relatively low number of excess deaths between March 2020 and October 2021.
• The World Health Organization’s governing board has agreed to form a new committee to help speed up its response to health emergencies like COVID-19.
• Shanghai will end to its two-month long COVID-19 lockdown on June 1.
• India’s federal government will provide educational scholarships, mental health counselling and health insurance to children who have been orphaned by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hospitalizations with COVID-19 decrease, but 42 more deaths recorded over seven days.
•Beijing lab staff detained by police for failure to detect COVID-19
•North Korea says new fever cases under 100,000 as virus fight heats up
• Majority of Canadians believes the worst of the pandemic is over, finds poll.
• Study finds link between air pollution and COVID-19 severity.
• Pfizer/BioNTech say three COVID shots elicit good response in children under five years old, using a much smaller dose than for older children or adults.

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B.C. had highest rate of unexpected deaths during pandemic: Study

B.C. had one of the lowest mortality rates due to COVID-19 in North America, but it outstrips all provinces for excess deaths during the time of the pandemic, according to a new study.

The study looked at the total number of deaths between March 2020 and October 2021, and found the “excess” — the number of deaths above what would normally be expected based on modelling and previous years — was highest, per capita, in B.C.

One possible reason for the higher number of excess deaths could be that intense attention on COVID-19 worsened B.C.’s ability to cope with other emergencies, including the heat dome during the summer of 2021 and the continuing crisis of a tainted suppy of street drugs, according to Kimberlyn McGrail, a University of B.C. professor who published an analysis paper on Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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The B.C. Health Ministry also pointed to an increase in deaths due to air quality problems caused by wildfire smoke.

Read the full story here.

— Joanne Lee-Young

Long COVID finding ‘disappointing’: Vaccines do little to prevent ongoing symptoms

There are many proven benefits to the COVID vaccine, including a significant decrease in the chance of hospitalization and death. But it doesn’t look like protection from long COVID — the continuation of symptoms months after a COVID diagnosis, which can impact the heart, brain, lungs or general wellness — is among those advantages, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Vaccination clearly provides needed protection, the study says, but “reliance on it as a sole mitigation strategy may not most optimally reduce the risk of the long-term health consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

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Vaccinated only slightly less likely to develop long COVID

The study found that people who had received a full round of COVID vaccination were less likely than the unvaccinated to develop long COVID six months after their infection, but only by a small margin, and only related to certain symptoms. The finding was “disappointing,” lead author Ziyad Al-Aly told the Washington Post.

Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

Study struggles to explain why Quebec has high COVID death toll but low excess death

Researchers are having a hard time explaining why Quebec had Canada’s highest official COVID-19 death toll despite a relatively low number of excess deaths between March 2020 and October 2021.

A new study released today by the Canadian Medical Association Journal tried to answer that question but came up short.

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The study says Quebec had 4,033 excess deaths during that period but reported 11,470 COVID-19 fatalities — almost three times more. It’s the biggest gap recorded in Canada during the pandemic.

Excess deaths refer to the degree to which observed deaths exceed expected deaths based on modelling from previous years.

Kimberlyn McGrail, author of the study, “Excess mortality, COVID-19 and health care systems in Canada,” says she observed too many factors to offer any definitive answer.

Frederic Fleury-Payeur with Quebec’s statistical institute says he thinks Quebec doctors included COVID-19 as a cause of death more liberally than doctors in other provinces did.

— The Canadian Press

New WHO panel to speed up pandemic response, address shortcomings

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The World Health Organization’s governing board agreed on Monday to form a new committee to help speed up its response to health emergencies like COVID-19.

The U.N. health agency faced criticism for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the pace of its response to early cases that may have delayed detection and helped the virus to spread. Some disease experts say that governments and the WHO must avoid repeating such early missteps with other outbreaks like monkeypox.

The resolution, passed unanimously at the 34-member Executive Board’s annual meeting, will form a new “Standing Committee on Health Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response” to help address some of the perceived shortcomings.

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— Reuters

COVID-19 hit Shanghai to end two-month lockdown on June 1

Shanghai on Monday announced an end to its two-month long COVID-19 lockdown, allowing the vast majority of people in China’s largest city to leave their homes and drive their cars from Wednesday.

The news brought an outpouring of relief, joy and some wariness from exhausted residents.

“I’m so emotional that I’m going to cry,” said one Weibo user.

Most of the city’s 25 million residents have been confined to their homes for almost all of the lockdown which began on April 1, with curbs only slightly relaxing in recent weeks to allow some to go out for short periods of time.

— Reuters

Indian kids orphaned by COVID-19 to get scholarships, counselling: Modi

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India’s federal government will provide educational scholarships, mental health counselling and health insurance to children who have been orphaned by the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday.

“For those who have lost a loved one to coronavirus, the change it has brought to their lives is so difficult,” Modi said during an online event as he announced government benefits for minor children who have lost both parents to COVID-19.

More than 524,000 people have died since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic in India, according to official estimates, most of them during its devastating second wave last year, when hospitals ran out of oxygen and beds and millions fell sick.

Under the federal government scheme, children who have lost both parents to the coronavirus from March 11, 2020 to February 2022 will be given, among other things, free admission to a nearby school, schoolbooks and a sum of 1 million Indian rupees ($16,339) once they turn 23 years of age, according to a government statement.

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During the second wave in 2021, many children were left without a carer because both parents were ill and hospitalized with COVID-19, raising alarm bells among activists and government officials.

— Reuters

Number of COVID-positive patients in hospitals decline; 42 deaths

B.C. health officials reported a decrease in the number of people in hospital with COVID-19.

On Thursday, there were 473 people with the virus in hospital, down from 540 last Thursday. Out of these cases, 42 are in intensive care.

There were 1,358 new infections from May 15 to 21, a 17 per cent dip from the previous week.

B.C.’s death toll from COVID-19 stands at 3,469. Out of these, 467 deaths occurred after April 2 when the provincial government started reporting deaths using 30-day all-cause mortality, which counts deaths from any cause within 30 days of a COVID-19 positive lab result.

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Read the full story here.

— Cheryl Chan

Beijing lab staff detained by police for failure to detect COVID-19

Beijing police detained 17 employees of a Covid-19 lab for failing to test samples properly, blaming the infractions for worsening the outbreak that’s enveloped China’s capital for a month.

Workers at the lab diluted samples to the point that infections may not be able to be detected, officials said at a briefing on Friday. It led to cases not being found and spawned the risk of further spread, said Li Ang, an official with the Beijing Municipal Health Commission. The city will tighten supervision over labs, including daily inspections.

Mass testing has been a hallmark of China’s Covid Zero approach and officials have mobilized a legion of private diagnostic companies to help with the process. But inaccurate results produced by some firms have led to uninfected people with false positive results being sent to makeshift hospitals in Shanghai and infections not being detected in a timely manner in Beijing.

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The capital has seen a consistent drumbeat of infections since the current outbreak started to gather pace toward the end of April.

Read the full story here.

— Bloomberg

North Korea says new fever cases under 100,000 as virus fight heats up

North Korea’s daily fever cases dropped to below 100,000 for the first time, state media said on Saturday, less than three weeks after the country’s first acknowledgement of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The isolated country has been in a heated battle against an unprecedented COVID wave since declaring a state of emergency and imposing a nationwide lockdown this month, fuelling concerns about lack of vaccines, medical supplies and food shortages.

Some 88,520 more people showed fever symptoms as of Friday evening, compared with nearly 400,000 about 10 days ago, the official KCNA news agency said, citing data from the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters.

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The total number of fever patients since April rose to 3.36 million among the 25 million population. KCNA did not report any additional death. As of Friday, the death toll stood at 69.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

North Korea stockpiled Chinese masks, vaccines before reporting COVID-19 outbreak

n the months before it acknowledged its first official COVID-19 outbreak, North Korea suddenly imported millions of face masks, 1,000 ventilators, and possibly vaccines from China, trade data released by Beijing showed.

Two weeks ago state media revealed the outbreak, fuelling concerns about a lack of vaccines, medical supplies and food shortages. Chinese data show that even before that announcement, the North had begun stocking up.

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North Korea is not known to have conducted any significant COVID-19 vaccine campaign. In February, however, China exported $311,126 worth of unidentified vaccines to its neighbour, according to the data released this month. China reported no other vaccine exports to North Korea for any other month this year, or all of last year.

— Reuters

Majority of Canadians believes the worst of COVID-19 is over: Poll

The majority of Canadians believes the worst of COVID-19 is over and generally feels satisfied about how their governments have tackled the threat, found a new survey.

According to a Research Co. report, 76 per cent of Canadian respondents believe the worst of the pandemic threat is behind us — a jump of 14 points since a similar poll was conducted in April.

The feelings of optimism were most prevalent in Alberta and Ontario where 80 per cent say the pandemic is unlikely to get worse. British Columbians are slightly more wary, with 71 per cent saying the worst of the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.

With the threat of COVID-19 receding and the majority of pandemic-related restrictions lifting, more Canadians are reporting positive views about how their governments dealt with the virus and its impacts.

Read full story here.

— Cheryl Chan

Study finds link between air pollution and COVID-19 severity

An extensive study of thousands of COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospitals has found links between the severity of their infections and the levels of common air pollutants they experience.

Chen Chen, an epidemiologist at the University of California, says the study suggests that the more long-term pollution people are exposed to, the worse a COVID-19 infection hits them.

The study has been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study looked at more than 150,000 COVID-19 cases in Ontario patients and correlated their outcomes with levels of fine particles, ozone and nitrogen dioxide — the three components of smog.

— The Canadian Press

Pfizer/BioNTech say 3 COVID shots elicit good response in children under 5

Drugmakers Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Monday that three doses of their COVID-19 vaccine generated a strong immune response in children under age 5 and was safe and well-tolerated in their clinical trial.

The companies said they plan to soon ask global regulators to authorize the shot for the age group, children for whom no vaccine is currently approved in most of the world. They said they expect to complete their submission of data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week.

The clinical trial involved giving 1,678 children ages 6 months to under 5 years smaller doses of the vaccine than given to older children and adults. Pfizer and BioNTech said that three shots of a 3 microgram formulation of their vaccine generated a similar immune response in that age group as in 16 to 25-year-olds who had received two doses of the 30 microgram formulation of the vaccine in an earlier clinical trial.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

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.

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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