Canada’s chief public health officer says that in spite of the challenges posed by the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are good reasons for optimism in the latest federal modelling data.
Speaking at a technical briefing on the data today, Dr. Theresa Tam said the virus’s reproductive number (Rt) has fallen below one for the first time since mid-July.
That means new infections are on a downward trajectory in Canada for the first time in months.
“However, Rt has only just fallen below one nationally, and still may be at or above one in some areas,” Tam said. “To bring the epidemic under control, Rt needs to be maintained consistently below one.”
“The efforts we’ve made give us reason for optimism,” Tam said. “But we must remain mindful for the need for continued caution in the months ahead.”
Over the past week, Canada saw an average of 3,745 new cases of COVID-19 per day. That’s less than half of the more than 8,000 new infections per day predicted by earlier modelling presented in September, Tam said.
Canada will donate up to 10M additional doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines — also known as the Janssen vaccine — internationally, the federal government announced Wednesday.
“I am pleased to announce that Canada will share an additional 10 million doses of the Janssen vaccine for distribution to low and middle-income countries,” Minister of International Development Karina Gould told reporters during a press conference.
The donation brings Canada’s total donations to the COVAX facility to over 40 million COVID-19 doses, making the country one of the leaders in vaccine donation per capita.
“We can be proud that 40M doses is the equivalent to a dose donated from every Canadian to somebody else in the world that also needs to get vaccinated,” she added.
Researchers at the University of Alberta may have found a new piece of the puzzle to fully understand COVID-19 — how a protein may be deregulating the immune system and leading to serious long-term conditions or death.
The new study shows COVID-19 patients have high levels of a protein called galectin-9 in their blood plasma. Researchers have also found a link between those elevated levels of galectin-9 and the occurrence of “cytokine storms” within the patient’s body.
A cytokine storm is when cytokine is produced very quickly and released in large quantity, which causes severe inflammation, damages organs and tissue and can lead to death.
If the team’s suppositions are correct — that COVID-19 patients can be identified by analyzing a sample of their blood — it would introduce a new form of COVID testing. It could also allow healthcare professionals to identify the extent of a COVID-19 infection based on the level of galectin-9 in a patient’s blood plasma.
Dr. Elahi says the next step in the research would be to develop treatments to block the protein.
Canada will open its borders to fully vaccinated Americans next month after a nearly 17-month closure.
The move to ease border restrictions comes after significant gains in the country’s vaccination rate and a steady drop in Covid-19 cases.
If the virus progress continues, Canada will welcome all fully vaccinated international travellers by 7 September.
All travellers will need to present a negative Covid-19 test before entry.
The changes for American travellers and US permanent residents will go into place on 9 August.
The Canadian government first shut its borders in March 2020, barring entry to all non-essential foreign travellers with few exceptions.
An anti-viral nasal spray called Enovid that was developed in Canada and tested in the UK can reduce the viral loads in confirmed COVID-19 cases by 95% in 24 hours and 99% in 72 hours, a press release said on Sunday.
The Israeli-manufactured spray can be used up to five times a day after coming in contact with viruses, according to the release. It’s suitable for children as young as 12 years old, and the Ministry of Health approved it in January this year. It will go on sale in the coming week.
“The spray we developed has been proven not only as a virus blocker that causes Covid-19 but also as a killer,” Dr. Gili Regev, CEO and founder of SaNotize (the company that developed the spray) said.
Since most COVID-19 infections are nasal, SaNotize believes this is an effective way to reduce the spread and infection of COVID-19. It has been able to suppress the SARS-CoV-2 virus within two minutes, including the Alpha and Gamma variants, according to the release. It is currently being tested against the Delta variant.
The spray is also effective against other respiratory viruses such as those that cause flu.
Canada is expecting vaccine shipments to keep rolling in this week as the country inches closer to matching the percentage of people in the United States fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The federal government expects another 1.4 million doses of the shot from Pfizer-BioNTech to arrive in the next seven days.
It also plans to distribute the 1.5 million doses from Moderna that came in last Friday.
By the end of the week, Canadian officials expect to have received a total of more than 55 million doses including the latest shipments, though those figures may change.
The federal government has promised that it would reach 68 million shots delivered by the end of July and says it’s still on track to hit that target.
Canada is donating an additional 17.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to help inoculate people in low- and middle-income countries, federal ministers announced Monday.
International Development Minister Karina Gould and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the doses were a part of the federal government’s advance purchase agreement with the company and would be distributed through COVAX.
COVAX is a global vaccine-sharing initiative jointly co-ordinated by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.
The program pools funds from wealthier countries to buy vaccines for those countries and ensure that low- and middle-income countries have access to vaccines as well. Canada has already committed $440 million to COVAX.
“As we are now able to donate excess vaccines, the contribution to COVAX of close to 18 million doses will help to meet international needs and end this pandemic,” Anand said in a statement.
Germany no longer classifies some regions, including the United States, Canada and Austria, as areas of a high coronavirus risk, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Friday.
The RKI listed 19 countries and regions that are “no longer considered risk areas” thanks to their low coronavirus infection rates.
Countries that have been removed from the travel risk list include Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Cyprus, Kosovo, Lebanon, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Ukraine and the US.
Some regions in Portugal, Norway, Croatia, Greece and Switzerland are also no longer considered risk regions by Germany.
Travelers entering Germany by plane must provide a negative test result, proof of vaccination or proof of recovery before their departure, whether or not they spent time in a risk area, the RKI said.
The decision takes effect on June 13.