December 11, 2023

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

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Here’s your update with everything you need to know about the COVID situation in B.C. and around the world for the week of Nov. 3-9. This page will be updated with the latest COVID news and related research developments daily throughout the week, so be sure to check back often.

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You can also get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.

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Here are the latest weekly B.C. figures given on Nov. 3:

• Hospitalized cases: 286 (down six)
• Intensive care: 27 (up seven)
• New cases: 486 over seven days ending Oct. 29 (down 48)
• Total number of confirmed cases: 387,936
• Total deaths over seven days ending Oct. 29: 27 (total 4,525)

Read the full report here | Next update: Nov. 10


Quebec ends five-day COVID isolation period, counsels common sense

Montreal doctors struggling with overwhelmed emergency rooms denounced Quebec’s recommendations to abandon five-day COVID-19 isolation periods and the suggestion citizens use “common sense” to avoid contracting respiratory viruses.

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Lack of mitigating measures to stop viruses circulating widely will further stress an overtaxed system, they warned. Forecasts of a difficult flu season ahead could further exacerbate the situation.

“Every time there’s a fire, you go get water to put it out. You don’t just say ‘Let’s see how big the fire gets,’ ” said Dr. Donald Vinh, an epidemiologist at the McGill University Health Centre, “That’s the reaction we’re getting with public health — that there isn’t a response.”

Health Minister Christian Dubé announced last week he was assembling a crisis team to deal with overflowing emergency rooms, Vinh noted.

“And now the province’s health director is saying … we don’t really need to worry about mitigating respiratory virus transmission,” he said. “It’s just another example of the failure of public health policy.”

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Some health practitioners, however, said they felt the government was taking a measured response and could shift gears rapidly if the situation deteriorates.

Quebec public health director Dr. Luc Boileau said on Thursday the COVID-19 situation has evolved “in a mostly positive way.” Since mid-October, indicators have improved in almost all groups, although a rise in cases among those 80 and older show COVID-19 “hasn’t disappeared; it’s still circulating.”

Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

Child hospitalizations are spiking. Did COVID lockdowns create ‘immunity debt’?

A virus that infects and clogs a baby’s airways is running rampant. An Ottawa hospital where parents have camped out with sick kids in emergency for up to 20 hours has made the “gut-punch” decision to cancel some elective surgeries. In Montreal, doctors have likened the situation in their pediatric ERs to “a horror film,” not knowing what lurks around the corner.

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“Anyone with young children will quickly agree that our kids seem to be getting more sick, and sick more often than in the past,” said Rodney Russell, a professor of immunology and virology at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

An unseasonably early crush of respiratory viral infections has once again raised the spectre of an “immunity debt,” a concept described by some as an unintended boomerang effect of distancing, masking and other COVID containment measures used to slow SARS-CoV-2’s spread.

Experts disagree about whether “immunity debt” is a real phenomenon or convenient pseudoscience. But hospitals are reporting never-before-seen surges in children with severe viral infections that are causing historically long wait times and pushing critical care beyond capacity.

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Adult hospitals are being asked to accept teens 14 and older needing intensive care to free up beds for younger children. “It is anticipated that the next 2-3 months will bring significantly increased demands for pediatric critical care support,” the head of Ontario’s critical care COVID-19 command centre wrote to hospital CEO’s in a memo obtained by The Canadian Press.

Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

COVID-19 in B.C. moves further into rearview mirror

The prevalence and impact of COVID-19 in B.C. continues to recede.

Data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control released on Thursday show the number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths continues to fall. T

here were 286 in hospital with COVID-19 on Nov. 3 of whom 27 were in intensive care.

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The BCCDC reports a COVID-19 case if a person in hospital has the disease, regardless of whether they are in hospital because of the illness. The same goes for people who die with COVID-19 (of which there were 23 in the week ended Oct. 29).

Vaccine-doubting doctor ordered to pay $1 million in legal costs after her libel suit quashed

When a host of doctors, academics and journalists criticized her COVID vaccine-doubting, anti-lockdown views, Dr. Kulvinder Kaur Gill struck back, filing a $12-million libel suit against them.

Amongst other charges, she accused her detractors of being a “pack of hyenas” bent on destroying her reputation. It has proven to be a very expensive counter-attack.

A judge this week ordered the pediatrician in Brampton, west of Toronto, to pay the defendants as much as $1.1 million in legal costs after her lawsuit was struck down earlier this year as a potential curb on important public debate.

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Part of the costs were assigned to a fellow plaintiff, Dr. Ashvinder Kaur Lambda, who sued only two of the 23 defendants, but Gill is on the hook for the bulk of the hefty award.

Justice Elizabeth Stewart said the cost sum was appropriate, noting that the damages sought by the two physicians in their suit was “a considerable sum by any calculation and of understandably great concern” to the people they sued.

Jeff Saikaley​, Gill’s lawyer, said neither he nor his client would comment as she is appealing both this week’s decision on costs, and the ruling in February that dismissed the lawsuit.

Read the full story here.

— The National Post

Freedom Convoy raised $24 million but frozen funds didn’t make it to truckers

The Freedom Convoy raised more than $24 million across crypto currencies and fundraising platforms, but almost all of that money ended up frozen, held in escrow as part of an ongoing lawsuit.

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The Emergencies Act commission received an overview report of the convoy’s finances from Commission lawyer Dan Sheppard, who presented all the information they have collected on where the protesters raised their money and where it ultimately ended up.

The convoy raised money across two fundraising platforms: GoFundMe, and when that platform suspended them they used GiveSendGo. But they also raised money through crypto currencies, cash donations and e-transfers.

The majority of the money was raised through either GoFundMe or GiveSendGo. Sheppard said GoFundMe began to have concerns about the protest almost from the beginning, in part because the company’s algorithms flagged how quickly it was growing. He said they told the commission after an initial meeting with protesters they had concerns, but organizer Tamara Lich agreed to an attestation about the use of the funds, which was initially enough for the company.

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Read the full story here.

— The National Post

Preston Manning pushes for citizens’ inquiry into pandemic response

Widespread belief governments’ COVID-19 protections were the prime culprit for pandemic harms requires a citizens’ inquiry on that response, says former Reform Party leader Preston Manning.

The one-time federal opposition leader is helping spearhead a proposed seven-city independent inquiry early next year into the pros and cons of how the pandemic has been handled at all government levels, one free from the suspicions aroused by politicians.

“There’s so much skepticism about political people,” Manning said Wednesday, while alluding to a recent national survey of 1,533 Canadians’ opinions conducted by the inquiry.

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“The fact 74 per cent said they were injured (by government pandemic restrictions) is a fairly sobering conclusion … there’s been a lot of pain from this on everybody’s part.”

Read the full story here.

— Calgary Herald

Edmonton pastor’s COVID case pushed into 2023 pending outcome of Calgary trial

The case of an Edmonton-area pastor charged with ignoring COVID-19 gathering restrictions has been pushed into 2023 — the latest postponement in the long-delayed case.

GraceLife pastor James Coates was charged under the Public Health Act in late 2020 with refusing to adhere to Public Health Act rules around social distancing and capacity limits and was jailed for 35 days for declining to follow bail conditions requiring him to obey public health orders. Law enforcement temporarily locked and fenced off the church when it continued to host services.

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Coates’s constitutional challenge of the public health orders continues to wind its way through the courts, and on Wednesday was before Stony Plain provincial court judge Robert Shaigec.

Shaigec once again consented to a delay pending the outcome of a Calgary case that lawyers for Coates say will be “decisive” on the constitutionality of Alberta’s COVID restrictions. That case involves plaintiffs Rebecca Marie Ingram, Heights Baptist Church, Northside Baptist Church, Erin Blacklaws and Torry Tanner, and featured testimony from chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Read the full story here.

— Edmonton Journal

Ontario’s top doc weighing bad flu season in decision on mask recommendations

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health says he’ll be considering whether to make a stronger recommendation on masking in about two weeks after looking closely at data on flu cases.

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Dr. Kieran Moore says the dominant flu strain this season is a bad one and the influenza season is expected to start picking up in the next couple of weeks.

Moore says this year’s flu shot formulation appears to be quite good at preventing hospitalizations, but it takes about 10 to 14 days to take effect, so Ontarians should get their shots now.

He says the influenza test positivity rate is expected to rise about five per cent this week, and if there are two weeks at that level the virus will spread more dramatically, so he will let Ontarians know at that point whether more people should be masking.

Right now Moore says he “strongly recommends” masks indoors for people who are older or with an underlying condition, but he has not yet issued a recommendation or requirement for the general public to wear them.

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— The Canadian Press

How COVID-19 damages lungs: The virus attacks mitochondria, continuing an ancient battle

Viruses and bacteria have a very long history. Because viruses can’t reproduce without a host, they’ve been attacking bacteria for millions of years. Some of those bacteria eventually became mitochondria, synergistically adapting to life within eukaryotic cells (cells that have a nucleus containing chromosomes).

Ultimately, mitochondria became the powerhouses within all human cells.

Fast-forward to the rise of novel coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2, and the global spread of COVID-19. Approximately five per cent of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 suffer respiratory failure (low blood oxygen) requiring hospitalization. In Canada about 1.1 per cent of infected patients (almost 46,000 people) have died.

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This is the story of how a team, assembled during the pandemic, recognized the mechanism by which these viruses were causing lung injury and lowering oxygen levels in patients: It is a throwback to the primitive war between viruses and bacteria — more specifically, between this novel virus and the evolutionary offspring of bacteria, our mitochondria.

Read the full story here.

— The Conversation via The Canadian Press

Shanghai Disney guests kept in closed park for virus testing

Shanghai Disneyland was closed and visitors temporarily kept in the park for virus testing, the city government announced, while social media posts said some amusements kept operating for guests who were blocked from leaving.

The park closed Monday for testing of staff and visitors, Walt Disney Co. and the city government announced. No details of a possible outbreak were released.

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“All guests have exited the park” following “expedited COVID testing,” Disney said Tuesday in a statement. It did not say when the park might reopen.

While other countries are easing anti-virus measures, China has stuck to a severe “Zero COVID” strategy that aims to isolate every case. Outbreaks in Shanghai in March led to a shutdown that confined most of its 25 million people to their homes for two months.

Read the full story here.

— The Associated Press

Emergencies Act inquiry to hear from ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest organizers this week

It was a scene of chaos and confusion in the upper tiers of the police service and local government when a convoy of big rigs and protesters arrived in Ottawa to demand an end to pandemic restrictions last winter.

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That’s the picture witnesses have painted over the first couple of weeks of hearings at the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is investigating the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act in February to bring an end to the weeks-long demonstration.

The inquiry also heard about the plight of the capital’s downtown residents, who recounted their suffering as lawlessness and around-the-clock blaring truck horns took over their community, and businesses that were forced to shut down.

But until now, the inquiry hasn’t heard from the protesters themselves.

Slated to appear this week are witnesses who can shed light on the conception of the “Freedom Convoy” movement, which by all accounts to date appears to have been started by two truck drivers and a TikTok video, and how it escalated over time.

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— The Canadian Press

U.K. says new Omicron variants could fuel fresh COVID infections

Health authorities in the UK have identified a number of Omicron variants that could fuel resurgent waves of COVID-19 infections as winter progresses.

The UK Health Security Agency said it’s studying the so-called BQ.1 and XBB sublineages of Omicron as well as several new variants of the BA.2 family.

The health agency warned that the newly emerging BA.2 variants have the potential to drive new waves of infections as lab studies show they could partially sidestep existing immunity.

“It is not unexpected to see new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge,” said Meera Chand, the UKHSA’s director of clinical and emerging infection, in a statement. “Vaccination remains our best defence against future Covid-19 waves.”

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Britain’s growing focus on these new subvariants comes a week after European health authorities said the BQ.1 subvariant and its sublineage BQ.1.1 will probably drive another wave of COVID infections across the continent toward the end of this year.

The BQ.1 subvariants are also gaining ground in the US, where they are responsible for an estimated 16.6 per cent of cases, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Meanwhile, the XBB variant is thought have contributed to a recent spike in cases in Singapore, the UK Health Security Agency said.

— Bloomberg

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.

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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.

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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 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.

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Where can I get a COVID-19 test?

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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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