COVID-19 update for July 1-3: 40 per cent of adult Canadians haven’t returned for booster shot | COVID increases in Ottawa, Quebec

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 update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for July 1-3, 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 every day this week, 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 B.C. figures given on June 30 for June 19 – June 25:

• Hospitalized cases: 273
• Intensive care: 28
• New cases: 620 over seven days
• Total number of confirmed cases: 374,594
• Total deaths over seven days: 17 (total 3,747)

Read the full report here | Next update: July 7 at 1 p.m. (or later)

Headlines at a glance

• Federal health officials urge Canadians to get an “up-to-date” COVID shot
New contagious sub-variants driving COVID increases in Ottawa
• Multiple signs point to resurgence of COVID-19 in Quebec, said health officials
• On the eve of Canada Day, B.C. reports 273 people in hospital with COVID-19, 17 deaths over seven days
• The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending booster shots this fall in advance of a possible next wave of COVID-19.
• The federal government is extending current COVID-19 public health measures for travellers entering Canada, including the use of the ArriveCan app, until at least Sept. 30.
• BioNTech, Pfizer to start testing universal vaccine for coronaviruses.
• COVID-19 is on the rise in Quebec and its public health director is warning residents take steps to protect themselves.
• B.C. Ferries CEO says the corporation has used up all the COVID-19 bailout money.
• Facility able to manufacture millions of COVID-19 vaccines opens in Saskatoon.
• ‘Freedom Convoy’ Tamara Lich was arrested in Alberta for breach of conditions.
• The U.S. FDA will decide whether to redesign COVID-19 vaccines this fall to fight Omicron.

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Latest News

Canadians should get ‘up to date’ vaccine boost against COVID: federal health officials

Faced with sluggish enthusiasm for COVID-19 boosters, federal health officials appealed to Canadians Thursday to prepare for a possible COVID-19 resurgence in the weeks or months ahead by getting “up to date” with their vaccines.

“What, exactly, do we mean by up-to-date vaccination? Let me be very clear,” federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said during a briefing Thursday. “Up to date means you’ve received your last dose in the past nine months.”

Those who have received a first booster should see if they’re eligible for a second or third, Duclos.

“But my message today, more specifically, is for those that haven’t yet received their first booster.” About 40 per cent of adult Canadians who have had two shots haven’t returned for a third.

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The immunity from two doses a person would have received in 2021 has waned, Duclos said. “While you might have gotten infected, (the) risk is high you could get reinfected, with all the downfall, including the risk of developing symptoms like long COVID.”

But the timing, severity, or even likelihood, of a fresh wave is still uncertain, and questions around when to get boosted — now or wait for the fall — is creating confusion. Many are also asking, why not hold out for an Omicron-specific shot rather than another round of the original vaccines?

Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

More contagious, more evasive: New sub-variants driving COVID increases in Ottawa

Ottawa residents should expect a rare summertime surge of COVID-19 as more contagious and more evasive Omicron sub-variants become dominant in the city, according to the co-lead investigator of the wastewater project.

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Tyson Graber, associate scientist at the CHEO Research Institute and co-lead of the city’s wastewater project, said the Omicron sub-variants that are driving high rates of transmission and hospitalization in parts of Europe and elsewhere are now taking off “in leaps and bounds” in Ottawa and across the province.

Those Omicron sub-variants include BA.4, BA.5 and BA2.12.1. Graber said it is not yet clear which one will dominate in Ottawa, but BA.4 was increasing, as recently as last week.

All three, but BA.4/BA.5 especially, are significantly more contagious than previous Omicron sub-variants, according to evidence from parts of the world where they already dominate. They also have a greater ability to evade immunity from vaccines and previous illness.

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Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

Quebecers warned to protect themselves as COVID-19 spreads

COVID-19 is on the rise due to the emergence of new variants and Quebecers should take steps to protect themselves, the province’s public health director said Wednesday.

“The situation is not what it was about two months ago, or even a few weeks ago,” Dr. Luc Boileau said at a news conference. “It’s going up and it’s spreading a lot, and we’re inviting all people to be vigilant.”

Multiple signs point to a resurgence of COVID-19, Boileau said, including a rise in cases, community transmission, outbreaks and hospitalizations.

The number of health-care workers absent due to the disease is rising, a particular concern when hospitals are already overburdened and lacking staff because of summer holidays.

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“Many of you may have noticed an increase in cases among friends and acquaintances,” Boileau said. “It’s linked to new variants that are progressing, including BA2.12.1 and BA.4 and BA.5.”

Officials estimate the new variants account for as much as 85 per cent of new cases in the province.

Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

273 people in hospital with COVID-19; 17 deaths over seven days

The numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations and new infections in B.C. continued their steady decline.

On the eve of Canada Day, 273 people were in hospital with COVID-19, the second-to-lowest figure recorded to date for 2022.

The lowest number of hospitalizations was recorded on March 24, just before it began inching upwards, peaking at nearly 600 in mid-May.

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Out of the 273 people currently in hospital, 28 are in critical care.

According to the latest weekly report released Thursday, B.C. has 620 new cases between June 19 and June 25, a slight decline from the 642 cases reported for the previous week and about a third of new infections reported in late April.

The number of new cases is an inaccurate reflection of the true number of cases in B.C. due to limited PCR testing in the province.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control also reported 169 people were admitted to hospital during this time period, down from 194 the previous week.

There were 17 deaths attributed to COVID-19 over the seven days, bringing the province’s death toll from the virus to 3,747.

Since April 2, B.C. counts all deaths that occur within 30 days from a positive test result in its 30-day all-cause mortality count, even if the virus wasn’t the main cause of death.

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— Cheryl Chan

NACI recommends fall COVID-19 booster shot in advance of possible future wave

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending booster shots this fall in advance of a possible future wave of COVID-19 in Canada.

In a release Wednesday, NACI says jurisdictions should plan to offer boosters to people who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID regardless of the number of booster doses they previously received.

It says this should include people 65 years of age and older, residents of long-term care or living facilities, and individuals 12 years of age and older with an underlying medical condition that places them at high risk of severe COVID-19.

The recommendation also includes adults in Indigenous, racialized and marginalized communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences, as well as quarters for migrant workers, shelters, correctional facilities and group homes.

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NACI also recommends that boosters be offered to all other individuals from 12 to 64 years of age regardless of the number of booster doses they have previously received.

—The Canadian Press

Canada extends COVID-19 border measures until Sept. 30, including ArriveCan app

The federal government will extend current COVID-19 public health measures for travellers entering Canada, including the use of the ArriveCan app, until at least Sept. 30.

In a release Wednesday, the Public Health Agency of Canada also said it will continue the pause of mandatory random testing for fully vaccinated travellers at all airports until mid-July.

It first announced the pause on June 11 and said in the release that it’s allowing airports to focus on streamlining their operations.

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The public health agency said it’s moving forward with plans to relocate COVID-19 testing for air travellers outside of airports to select test provider stores, pharmacies or by virtual appointment.

Mandatory random testing is to continue at land border points of entry with no changes.

The release added that travellers who are not fully vaccinated and don’t have a valid exemption must continue to test on Day 1 and Day 8 of their 14-day quarantine.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

BioNTech, Pfizer to start testing universal vaccine for coronaviruses

Germany’s BioNTech, Pfizer’s partner in COVID-19 vaccines, said the two companies would start tests on humans of next-generation shots that protect against a wide variety of coronaviruses in the second half of the year.

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Their experimental work on shots that go beyond the current approach include T-cell-enhancing shots, designed to primarily protect against severe disease if the virus becomes more dangerous, and pan-coronavirus shots that protect against the broader family of viruses and its mutations.

In presentation slides posted on BioNTech’s website for its investor day, the German biotech firm said its aim was to “provide durable variant protection.”

The two partners, makers of the Western world’s most widely used COVID-19 shot, are currently discussing with regulators enhanced versions of their established shot to better protect against the Omicron variant and its sublineages.


Quebecers warned to protect themselves as COVID-19 spreads

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COVID-19 is on the rise in the province and Quebecers should take steps to protect themselves, Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Luc Boileau, said at a pandemic news conference Wednesday morning.

Multiple signs point to an increase in COVID-19, including a rise in cases, community transmission, outbreaks and hospitalizations. As well, the number of health care workers absent due to the disease is rising, a particular concern when hospitals are already overburdened and are lacking staff because of summer holidays.

Boileau suggested people wear masks, particularly if they are in at-risk groups, and get a booster shot if they haven’t already done so.

“Many of you may have noticed an increase in cases among friends and acquaintances,” Boileau said. “It is linked to new variants that are progressing, including BA2.12.1 and BA.4 and BA.5.”

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The variants are more transmissible than the original strain “and we estimate more than three-quarters of cases are linked to these types of variants.”

Read the full story here.

— Montreal Gazette

COVID cases spike in Americas, South America worst hit: PAHO

COVID-19 cases in the Americas rose about 14% last week from the previous one, with 1.3 million new cases and 4,158 new deaths reported, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

South America was the worst affected, with an increased COVID death rate up 32.8% from previous week, according to PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne.

“In South America, there has been a significant increase in COVID-19 incidence, with almost half a million new COVID-19 cases reported during the last week – a 24.6% increase compared to the previous week,” Etienne said in a press briefing.

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The largest rise in infections were reported in Bolivia followed by Peru.

North America saw an increase of 7.7% compared to the previous week despite a drop in cases in Canada, as the United States and Mexico are trending in the opposite direction, PAHO said.

— Reuters

China’s easing COVID curbs spark travel inquiry surge, and caution

Online searches for Chinese airline tickets on domestic and international routes surged on Wednesday, after Beijing said it would slash COVID-19 quarantine requirements and made changes to a state-mandated mobile app used for local travel.

The unexpected moves mark a significant easing of rigid curbs that have severely curtailed travel and battered China’s economy, although tough measures remain in place including a scarcity of international flights, and many social media users voiced caution.

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The industry ministry said on Wednesday that a Chinese mobile app that shows whether a person has travelled in a Chinese city with COVID-affected areas will no longer mark that history with an asterisk, one of the many means China has of tracking and curbing the virus’s possible spread.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

B.C. Ferries has used all its $308 million COVID-19 government bailout money, CEO says

B.C. Ferries has used all of its $308 million COVID-19 government financial aid package, says the corporation’s CEO.

According to Mark Collins, in December 2020 B.C. Ferries was given $308 million as a joint offering from the federal and provincial governments to manage the impacts of COVID. The bulk of this money ($280 million) was to cover losses due to COVID restrictions impacting ferry service, while $24 million was to ensure there were no fare increases and $4 million was to ensure there was no reduction in service on small routes.

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Called Safe Restart Funding, half of the money came from the federal government’s $19 billion Safe Restart Agreement, while the rest came from the B.C. Restart Plan (which wasn’t part of the province’s $5 billion COVID-19 Action Plan that was announced in March 2020.)

TransLink and Transit B.C. received similar amounts from the same joint federal/provincial agreement.

—David Carrigg

Facility able to manufacture millions of COVID-19 vaccines opens in Saskatoon

A centre that can develop up to 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines a year has opened in Saskatoon, and officials say it may soon export vaccines throughout North America and Europe.

The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization has completed construction of its Level 3 containment facility, considered to be the largest in Canada.

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It is able to manufacture both human and animal vaccines for dangerous viruses.

“We have the ability to work with these pathogens, discover, develop new vaccines, and then also manufacture them in-house, and that saves time, and time is very important during a pandemic,” CEO and director Volker Gerdts said Tuesday.

—The Canadian Press

South Korea approves first homemade COVID-19 vaccine

Health officials in South Korea on Wednesday approved the country’s first domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 years or older, adding another public health tool in the fight against a prolonged pandemic.

In clinical trials involving some 4,000 participants in South Korea and five other countries, SK Bioscience’s two-dose SKYCovione vaccine appeared to be more effective than the broadly used AstraZeneca shots in building immunity against infections, officials at South Korea’s Food and Drug Safety Ministry said.

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It isn’t immediately clear how officials will administer the newly developed vaccine or how big of a role the shots will have in the next phase of the pandemic. The shots were designed for the original version of the coronavirus, not the more transmissible omicron variant that wreaked havoc in the country earlier this year. U.S. vaccine giants Pfizer and Moderna have been speeding up their development of booster shots targeting omicron and experts say it’s possible the virus could evolve again in the coming months.

—The Associated Press

‘Freedom Convoy’ organizer Tamara Lich arrested for breach of conditions: Cops

Tamara Lich, a key organizer of the “Freedom Convoy,” has been arrested in Alberta on a Canada-wide warrant for breach of her court conditions, say Ottawa police.

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Lich will be returned to Ottawa to appear in court, police said Tuesday.

Eric Granger, one of Lich’s lawyers, confirmed the arrest in an email Monday evening, and added that they were awaiting further details, but the arrest appeared to be related to Lich’s bail conditions.

He could not confirm the location of the arrest, but another lawyer who has also represented Lich, Keith Wilson, said on Twitter that the arrest happened Monday in Medicine Hat, Alta., where she lives.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

U.S. FDA will decide on redesigned COVID vaccines by early July

U.S. regulators plan to decide by early July on whether to change the design of COVID-19 vaccines this fall in order to combat more recent variants of the coronavirus, with hopes of launching a booster campaign by October, a top Food and Drug Administration official said on Tuesday.

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“The better the match of the vaccines to the circulating strain we believe may correspond to improve vaccine effectiveness, and potentially to a better durability of protection,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said at a meeting of outside advisers to the regulator.

The committee is scheduled to vote on a recommendation on whether to make the change later on Tuesday.

The updated shots are likely to be redesigned to fight the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, experts say. The exact composition of the retooled shots and whether they also will include some of the original vaccine alongside new components will be considered at the meeting.

— Reuters

What are B.C.’s current public health measures?

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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.

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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.

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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