Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Friday

Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Friday
Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Friday

The newest:

World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told Reuters on Friday that while the new variant of the coronavirus, Omicron, appears to be highly transmissible, the correct response is to be careful and not panic.

WHO has urged countries to increase health care capacities and vaccinate their populations to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant, saying travel restrictions could buy time, but on their own be not the answer.

“How concerned should we be? We have to be prepared and careful, don’t panic because we are in a different situation than we were a year ago, ”Swaminathan said during an interview at the Reuters Next conference.

The emergence of the new variant is undesirable, but the world is much better prepared given the development of vaccines since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much is still unknown about Omicron, which was first discovered in southern Africa last month and sighted in at least two dozen countries. Parts of Europe had to struggle with a wave of infections of the Delta variant even before it appeared.

“We’ll have to wait, let’s hope it gets milder … but it’s too early to judge the variant as a whole,” said Swaminathan of what was known about Omicron.

“The delta accounts for 99 percent of infections worldwide. This variant would have to be more transmissible in order to assert itself and become dominant worldwide. It is possible, but not predictable.”

The WHO top scientist said the Omicron variant appeared to cause three times more infections than before in South Africa.

Vaccines seemed to have some effect.

“The fact they don’t get sick means the vaccines will still provide protection and we hope they will continue to provide protection,” Swaminathan said.

When asked about the need for an annual booster vaccination, she said, “WHO is preparing for any scenario” that could include an additional dose, especially for some age groups or at risk populations, or a modified vaccine.

“Natural infections act as boosters,” said the WHO scientist, adding that while the new variant “could come from a country that doesn’t have a lot of genome sequencing,” its origins are unknown.

“We may never know,” said Swaminathan.

CLOCK | WHO emergency director says “kind of a roller coaster ride” when it comes to information about omicron:

The WHO warns against “a little roller coaster ride” with information about omicron

World Health Organization Emergencies Director Mike Ryan says the transparency of the rapidly emerging data on the coronavirus variant empowers Omicron, but recognizes the worrying effect of hearing information in real time. 1:49

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergency program, said later on Friday that information on the variant will be poured in soon as scientists learn more. He urged people to “stay centered” and not “go to the extremes of any analysis”.

“There was a time when scientists looked at all of this data and no one in public would find out about it, and finally, a month later … there would be a result,” he said during a question-and-answer Round to Omicron. “This is not how the world works anymore – everything happens in real time.”

Ryan said the shift in the way information moves around the world has some real benefits in terms of transparency and empowerment. But he said it could also be “unsettling” for people because there are no fixed answers immediately.

“This is the world we live in, so we have to get used to living in this world where getting the real evidence and answers falls a little short of getting all the data and all this unrelated information.”

“We all live with this uncertainty,” he said.

– From Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 11:45 am ET

What’s happening across Canada

CLOCK | Eligibility for COVID-19 booster vaccinations varies in Canada:

Eligibility for COVID-19 booster vaccinations varies in Canada

Ontario will lower the eligible age for COVID-19 booster vaccinations to 50 years and above by mid-December, complementing a changing card of eligibility for booster vaccinations in Canada. It is calling for provinces and territories to work more closely with one another when it comes to who will get a booster vaccination. 2:03

What’s happening all over the world

CLOCK | “Why is it just Africa?”: South Africa’s high commissioner questions the scientific basis for Canada’s travel ban:

“Why is it just Africa?”: South Africa’s high commissioner questions the scientific basis for Canada’s travel ban

“South Africa has shown the highest level of transparency and integrity, but we are now being chastised for doing the right thing,” South Africa’s High Commissioner Sibongiseni Dlamini-Mntambo told Power & Politics on Thursday. 11:18

As of late Friday morning, more than 264.4 million cases of COVID-19 were reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll was more than 5.2 million.

In Africa, The Department of Health in South Africa reported 11,535 new cases of COVID-19 and 44 additional deaths on Thursday, up from 8,561 new cases and 28 deaths the day before. The country that raised the alarm about the new variant called omicron saw cases rise.

In Europe, more regions of Russia have made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for residents 60 and older as the country tries to control coronavirus infections and keep the Omicron variant at bay.

Authorities in the northern Komi region said Friday that people in that age group must be fully vaccinated by February 1. The Omsk region in Siberia on Thursday introduced a stricter schedule that obliges people aged 60 and over to receive their first dose of vaccine by December 24th and their second dose by January 15th.

Several other regions, including Lipetsk, Kurgan and the city of St. Petersburg, have accepted similar mandates in the past few weeks. Some regions also issued vaccination mandates for certain categories of key workers. Russia has struggled to contain the cases, given low vaccination rates and poor compliance with public health measures.

About 40 percent of Russia’s nearly 146 million people are fully vaccinated, despite the fact that the country approved a domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine – Sputnik V – months before most of the world.

Meanwhile, the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England rose to around 1 in 60 people in the week ended November 27, the UK National Statistics Office said on Friday, led by the dominant Delta variant rather than the newly identified Omicron. The prevalence had risen from 1 in 65 the previous week, the ONS said.

CLOCK | Canadians must take a COVID-19 test the day before flying to the US:

Canadians are required to take a COVID-19 test the day before flying to the United States

The US plans to require all travelers arriving by air to have a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of their departure. 2:15

By doing America, the Biden administration announced measures to protect against the spread of the virus. Starting Monday, international air travelers arriving in the US must have a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel.

“We will fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion,” said President Joe Biden. Around 60 percent of the US population is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates among wealthy nations.

By doing middle EastOPEC and its allies agreed to stick with their existing monthly oil production policy, despite fears that releasing US crude oil reserves and the new Omicron coronavirus variant would lead to a new drop in oil prices.

By doing Asia Pacific In the region, India reported its first Omicron cases, but the government said it had no immediate plan to approve booster vaccinations despite demands from lawmakers.

– From The Associated Press, Reuters, and CBC News, last updated at 11:35 am ET