COVID-19 update for July 18: 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 update with everything you need to know on the COVID-19 situation in B.C. and around the world for July 18, 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.

Headlines at a glance

• Shanghai and other Chinese cities enforce testing, extend lockdowns of millions
• Japan reports record number of COVID cases as summer holidays set to begin
• Pandemic behind ‘largest backslide in childhood vaccination in a generation,’ said the United Nations
• Edmonton church fined $80k after blocking COVID-19 inspection
• How do travellers feel about the return of random COVID-19 testing in Canada?
• B.C. urges parents of babies and toddlers to get a COVID vaccine after Health Canada approval
• Fresh COVID wave sweeps Asia, New Zealand warns of pressure on hospitals
• Returning to Canada after July 19? Random COVID testing is back at four Canadian airports, including YVR
• Health Canada approves first COVID-19 vax for youngest kids
• The fourth COVID vaccine dose: Here’s where Canada’s provinces and territories stand
• New B.C. modelling shows the number of cases of COVID-19 is rising significantly in people aged 70 and over
• New data shows that more than 20 million Canadians received government support such as CERB during the pandemic
• Shoppers Drug Mart among retailers rolling back pandemic protocols as mandates lift
• Here’s a primer on COVID’s latest twist — the BA.4 and BA.5 variants — and how to protect against it
• B.C. is set to roll out second booster program to British Columbians age 12+ starting in the fall

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ArriveCan ‘glitch’ ordering vaccinated Canadians into quarantine without reason

OTTAWA — According to the government of Canada’s ArriveCan app, David Crouch should be at home, avoiding all contact, quarantining, to protect others from the COVID-19 there is absolutely no indication he has.

Crouch is quadruple vaccinated, has not tested positive for COVID-19 and is showing no symptoms. The border guard who waved him back into Canada last week said nothing about getting a COVID test, or quarantine, but when he got home he found an email and a notification in his ArriveCan app, telling him to stay home for two weeks.

Shanghai, other Chinese cities enforce testing, extend lockdowns

Several large Chinese cities including Shanghai are rolling out new mass testing or extending lockdowns on millions of residents to counter new clusters of COVID-19 infections, with some measures being criticized on the internet.

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China has reported an average of around 390 local daily infections in the seven days ending on Sunday, higher than about 340 seven days earlier, according to Reuters calculations based on official data as of Monday.

While that is tiny compared with a resurgence in other parts of Asia, China is adamant about implementing its dynamic zero COVID policy of eliminating outbreaks as soon as they emerge. Previously when a flare-up became a major outbreak, local officials had been compelled to take tougher measures such as month-long lockdowns, even at the cost of economic growth.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

Japan COVID cases hit record as summer holidays set to begin

Japan found a record 110,600 new COVID cases on Saturday, surpassing the previous high set in February, just as the country prepares for the summer holidays, public broadcaster NHK said.

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Deaths and severe illness have remained at relatively low levels so far in the current wave.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a July 14 news conference that he wasn’t planning any return to restrictions on people’s movements, nor thinking of strengthening border controls at that point. The premier — fresh from a July 10 upper house election victory — has previously won public support for his cautious stance on Covid, including encouraging mask-wearing and maintaining border restrictions long after other developed countries had opened up.

He may be more reluctant to seek limits on people’s movements now, with the economy stuttering and the yen in a slump not seen for decades.

Read the full story here.

— Bloomberg

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Pandemic behind ‘largest backslide in childhood vaccination in a generation’: UN

Around 25 million children around the world missed out on routine vaccinations last year that protect against life-threatening diseases, as the knock-on effects of the pandemic continue to disrupt health care globally.

That is two million more children than in 2020, when COVID-19 caused lockdowns around the world, and six million more than pre-pandemic in 2019, according to new figures released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

Edmonton church, pastor fined $80K after obstructing COVID-19 health inspection

An Edmonton church and one of its co-pastors have been fined $80,000 after Alberta Health inspectors were refused entry to the building on multiple occasions last year.

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Church in the Vine of Edmonton, along with its co-pastor Tracy Fortin, was found guilty in May of three counts of obstructing an inspector who was looking to check if masking and social distancing rules were being followed.

“It is clear that the fine must be significant,” wrote Alberta provincial court Judge Shelagh Creagh in handing down the sentence. “It must be a deterrent, not a licensing fee.

“These offences are very serious.”

Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

How do travellers feel about the return of random COVID-19 testing in Canada?

Travellers passing through the Ottawa area appear divided on the federal government’s move to reinstate random COVID-19 testing for international passengers.

The move, set to go into effect on Tuesday, applies to travellers coming into Canada through international airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto. While Ottawa is not included, most people coming to the capital region from abroad must transit through one of those other airports first.

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Speaking to travellers at the Ottawa International Airport on Friday, some supported the change as Ontario enters its seventh COVID-19 wave, others found it unnecessary and many were unaware of the policy change.

“It’s a giant load of bullsh-t to be honest,” said Stef Brake, 33.

With the federal government recently pausing the vaccine requirements to board a plane or a train, Brake said she did not understand what difference mandatory random testing would do to stop the spread of COVID-19 with other restrictions no longer in place.

Bob White, 65, said he could not be happier about the government’s decision to reimplement random testing. “We’re not done with COVID yet,” he said.

Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

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B.C. urges parents of babies and toddlers to get a COVID vaccine after Health Canada approval

Babies as young as six months and toddlers and pre-schoolers up to age five in B.C. will soon be offered a vaccination against COVID-19 after Health Canada approved the jab for that age group.

“It’s definitely a good idea to get infants or preschoolers vaccinated,” said assistant professor Devon Greyson of UBC’s school of population and public health. “If my children were that age, I would get them vaccinated as soon as I could.”

Even though the illness in young people “tends to be less severe” than in the elderly, for instance, it is important to protect young people against the lingering symptoms referred to as long COVID, “although these are rare,” said Greyson.

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The affects of receiving the jab are similar to other vaccines, such as irritability, sleepiness, loss of appetite, and pain and a rash at the injection site.

Read the full story here.

Read more: Health Canada approves first COVID vaccine for kids under 5. Here’s what you need to know.

— Susan Lazaruk

Fresh COVID wave sweeps Asia, New Zealand warns of pressure on hospitals

A new wave of coronavirus infections is rapidly spreading through Asia, prompting warnings for residents from New Zealand to Japan to take precautions to slow the outbreak and help prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed.

The renewed surge in cases, mostly of the BA.4/5 Omicron variants, provides a further challenge for authorities grappling with the economic fallout of earlier waves of the pandemic while trying to avoid extending or reintroducing unpopular restrictions.

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The New Zealand government on Thursday announced free masks and rapid antigen tests as it tries to relieve pressure on the country’s health system, which is dealing with an influx of both COVID and influenza patients during the southern hemisphere winter.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

Canada bringing back mandatory random testing of travellers arriving at main airports

The federal government says mandatory random testing of travellers arriving at its four main airports will start again this week.

Ottawa paused the random testing of those entering Canada by air on June 11, as part of its strategy to transition to testing incoming travellers outside of airports.

The government now says testing will resume as of July 19 for fully vaccinated travellers arriving at the Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto airports.

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It says all testing will be completed outside of airports for unvaccinated people as well as those who are fully or partially vaccinated.

The testing will be completed either at an in-person appointment at select testing locations or via a virtual appointment for a swab test.

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated must test on both the first and eighth days of their mandatory 14-day quarantine, unless exempt.

— The Canadian Press

The fourth COVID vaccine dose: Here’s where Canada’s provinces and territories stand

Canada’s provinces are taking differing approaches to rolling out fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Some are offering the second boosters to all adults in response to the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, while others are keeping access limited for now with an eye to the fall.

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British Columbia has announced that a fourth dose will be available to all residents aged 12 and up starting in the fall. Residents over the age of 65, Indigenous people 55 and older, and immunocompromised or vulnerable individuals are receiving invitations to book appointments. Those living in long-term care and assisted living have already been offered shots.

Here are the eligibility guidelines for other provinces and territories.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

Auditor general to investigate B.C.’s vaccination coverage rates and how they are monitored

The Office of the Auditor General of B.C. announced on Wednesday that it will audit the province’s vaccination coverage rates and how they are monitored.

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The government audit will determine whether the Ministry of Health had the information to monitor COVID-19 vaccination rates by location, age and population group (long-term care and assisted living) from December 2020 to Feb. 2022.

The audit will also look at how information was collected to monitor COVID-19 vaccination rates, processes used to determine vaccination rates and reporting to key decision makers.

The report is expected to be released in early 2023.

COVID-19 in B.C.: Cases ‘rising significantly’ in those aged 70+ as Omicron variant BA.5 takes hold

The number of cases of COVID-19 is rising significantly in people aged 70 and over, according to the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group.

The independent group of academics has been reporting regularly on the pandemic since 2020 and in its latest review confirms Health Minister Adrian Dix’s statement last week that B.C. is in the third Omicron wave of the pandemic — driven by the emergence of the BA.5 subvariant.

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The group goes on to say that the number of infections and severe cases leading to hospitalization in B.C. are expected to rise through July and that it is difficult to determine what will happen in August.

Read the full story here.

— David Carrigg

Here’s what the 2021 census says about how many Canadians received COVID benefits

New data released Wednesday provides the clearest snapshot yet of how many Canadians accessed the COVID-19 support programs the government hastily rolled out at the beginning of the pandemic.

Statistics Canada unveiled the information as part of its rollout of findings from the national census taken in May 2021.

More than 20.7 million people received at least some financial support from the government, including 16.9 million who received top-ups from existing programs.

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In total, 8.4 million received benefits specifically designed to respond to COVID-19, the agency reported.

Read the full story here.

— The Canadian Press

Ontario to open up fourth doses to all adults

Ontario has joined a growing list of provinces making a fourth dose of COVID-19 available to all adults as a seventh pandemic wave continues to surge.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore made the announcement Wednesday, saying his most important message is to stay up to date on vaccinations. The second dose will be optional, he said, and people should consult with their doctors. He said those with health risk factors would benefit the most.

He said getting a second booster would not interfere with peoples eligibility to get a booster in the fall.

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Until now, Ontario had offered the fourth dose, or second booster shot, to people over 60, those living in long-term care and other congregate settings and some people with compromised immune systems.

Read the full story here.

— Ottawa Citizen

Shoppers Drug Mart among retailers rolling back pandemic protocols as mandates lift

When the plexiglass barriers that have protected pharmacy workers at a Manitoba Shoppers Drug Mart since the early stages of the pandemic were taken down in June, not everyone was happy about it.

“It’s just alarming because people (customers) are coming in sick,” one employee said, asking not to be identified due to fear of repercussions from their employer. The employee said customers come in throughout the day for COVID-19 PCR tests and rapid antigen tests, as well as related medications.

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While not meant to completely prevent transmission of the virus, the employee said the plexiglass barriers at the pharmacy counter served as a last piece of protection after customers were no longer required to wear face masks.

In an email, parent company Loblaw Companies Ltd. said removal of plexiglass barriers from Shoppers Drug Mart stores began in early June after a small pilot, and included taking down the barriers at cash registers.

Read the full story here.

— Postmedia News

Adapted, two-strain vaccines to lift COVID protection: EU official

A European health emergency official on Wednesday said adapted versions of established mRNA COVID-19 vaccines that address two variants in one shot will soon offer people better protection than vaccines that are now available.

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Moderna and the BioNTech-Pfizer alliance are working on vaccines based on a combination of the original Wuhan virus and an Omicron subvariant. Referred to as bivalent shots, these would be used in an autumn vaccination campaign.

“Whatever bivalent vaccine will be available will be a good one. It will be better than the current vaccines,” the director of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, Pierre Delsaux, told members of the European Parliament in a hearing.

Read the full story here.

— Reuters

U.S. CDC director: BA.5 estimated to represent 65% of circulating COVID-19 variants

The fast-spreading BA.5 sub-lineage of Omicron is estimated to make up 65 per cent of the coronavirus variants in the United States as of last week, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday.

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The BA.5 and BA.4 variants together accounted for more than 80 per cent of circulating variants last week, with BA.4 making up 16 per cent, Walensky told reporters at a White House briefing, adding that the seven-day average of COVID-19 hospital admissions has doubled since early May.

— Reuters

What we know about BA.4 and BA.5 — the latest subvariants to cause COVID surge

If one thing is clear about COVID-19, it’s that keeping track of its various permutations is a never-ending challenge. Just when regular people think they have a handle on SARS-COV-2 — the virus that causes COVID disease — and its journey through the human race, scientists do their best to confuse us with new nomenclature.

The latest is BA.4 and BA.5, the subvariants of the pathogen that are making their presence known in a big way and causing renewed concerns about the pandemic. Here’s a primer on COVID’s latest twist — and how to protect against it.

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Read the full story here.

— Tom Blackwell, Postmedia News

Moderna to advance two Omicron vaccine candidates against newer variants

Moderna Inc said on Monday it was advancing two Omicron vaccine candidates for the fall, one designed against the BA.1 variant and another against the BA.4 and BA.5.

Vaccine makers including Moderna and rival Pfizer Inc are developing updated vaccines to target the fast-spreading Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which have gained a foothold in the United States over recent weeks.

Moderna said its decision to develop the bivalent vaccines was based on different market preferences for shots against the subvariants.

Bivalent vaccines are designed to target two different coronavirus variants – the original variant from 2020 and the newer Omicron variants.

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Moderna said new clinical data for its mRNA-1273.214 vaccine, designed to target the BA.1 variant, showed significantly higher neutralizing antibody responses against the fast-spreading BA.4 and BA.5 compared with the currently authorized booster.

The company’s second booster candidate, mRNA 1273.222, is based on the BA.4/5 strain and is being developed in accordance with recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration advice.

— Reuters

B.C. to offer fall booster shots to everyone 12 and older starting September

Get ready to roll up your sleeves again.

B.C. health officials will be rolling out a vaccination campaign for second booster shots for millions of British Columbians age 12 and older in the fall, even as the province’s third wave of Omicron infections is already underway.

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B.C. plans to offer this second round of booster shots to the general population starting September, following the recommendation of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, possibly using bivalent vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna which are currently awaiting regulatory approval by Health Canada.

“The best thing to do is wait for the fall,” said Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of B.C.’s immunization campaign at a news conference on Friday. “That’s when the risk is highest and that’s the strongest recommendation of when we want you to get your fall booster.”

Updates are expected to get sent out to British Columbians starting Monday, informing them of the recommended guidelines and encouraging them to sign up to get their shot in the fall.

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Read the full story here.

— Cheryl Chan

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.

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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.

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?

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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