Tag Archives: infectious

B.C. identifies first case of infectious coronavirus variant found in South Africa

B.C.’s provincial health officer has confirmed the first case of a more infectious coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday that health officials are investigating how the person in B.C. contracted the variant, as they have not travelled or been linked to any travellers.

“It is, of course, concerning we don’t know where this arose,” she said.

The variant is more infectious than the original COVID-19 virus and has rapidly become dominant in South Africa’s coastal areas.

Henry said testing in B.C. indicates that the new variant does not appear to be widespread in the community.

The province is conducting genomic sequencing on five per cent of its test samples to detect mutations. The samples are randomly selected, but the focus is on areas with known cases of the variant, Henry said. 

She noted the province is working on a strategy to improve its ability to detect variants. 

Henry also confirmed four total cases in the province of the variant linked to the U.K. Three of the cases in B.C. are tied to one traveller, while the fourth case is linked to a second traveller. 

“We don’t believe that this has spread at all from these four cases,” Henry said. 

The U.K. strain also spreads more easily and has been blamed in that country for record-high cases and surging hospitalizations.

B.C. announced its first case on Dec. 27, a resident from the Island Health region who returned from the U.K. in mid-December.

Neither variant is believed to be more deadly, and scientists say there’s no evidence vaccines won’t protect against them.

WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry says it’s not yet clear if the vaccine prevents a person from being infected

Dr. Bonnie Henry says while the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against symptoms and preventing death, it’s not yet clear if the vaccine prevents a person from being infected. 1:29

Increase in cases in Interior Health

Henry also announced that seven more people have died of COVID-19 in B.C., as the province recorded 536 new cases.

Active cases in the province continue to fall, with the tally now at 4,624.

Notably, Interior Health eclipsed Vancouver Coastal Health Thursday as the region with the second-highest number of new cases. Henry said holiday gatherings are a big reason for the surge in cases in B.C.’s Interior.

“It’s not focused in one area,” she said.

“What we’re seeing is more local, where people had come together in small groups and decided they could stretch those rules. We’re seeing transmission in small clusters that is moving through communities.” 

Fraser Health remains the hardest-hit region, although its total has plummeted in recent weeks. 

A total of 362 people are in hospital, 74 of whom are in intensive care. Nearly 70,000 people have received a vaccine dose. 

The death toll stands at 1,038. A total of 52,605 people have recovered from the virus.

‘Our borders are very different’

With COVID-19 case numbers soaring in other parts of Canada, the B.C. government is getting legal advice to determine whether an inter-provincial travel ban is a valid option.

Both Alberta and Saskatchewan have COVID case counts numbering over 300 cases per 100,000 population, whereas B.C. is around 126 cases per 100,000.

Henry said she would not issue a public health order against inter-provincial travel, such as the travel ban in place in the Atlantic provinces. 

“It’s hard to see how that is feasible in British Columbia, for many reasons,” she said.

“Our borders are very different. We have many ways that people can cross, particularly from Alberta.”

Henry noted there are many services and workplaces that involve people travelling between provinces.

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CBC | Health News

U.S. infectious disease expert says coronavirus deaths in U.S. could top 100,000

The latest:

  • Trudeau announces new funding for Canadians young and old who are struggling to cope. 
  •  Dr. Anthony Fauci says between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in U.S. possible.
  • Virus-hit cruise ship with Canadians on board cleared to transit Panama Canal. 
  • Canada now has 5,866 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases and 63 deaths. 
  • Ontario to crack down on price gouging on essentials, bans gatherings of more than 5 people.
  • Sophie Grégoire Trudeau says she has recovered from COVID-19.
  • 1st infant death related to COVID-19 in the U.S. has been reported in the Chicago area.
  • U.K. households getting letter warning things will get worse before they get better.
  • A COVID-19 glossary: What the terms mean and some subtle differences.
  • INTERACTIVE / Tracking the spread of coronavirus.

The U.S. could see “millions of cases” of COVID-19 and between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths related to the novel coronavirus, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s foremost infectious disease expert.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was speaking to CNN’s State of the Union program on Sunday as the U.S. was leading the world in the number of reported infections, estimated at more than 122,000. The U.S. death count crossed 2,100 on Saturday, more than double the level from two days ago.

“But I don’t want to be held to that,” Fauci said, regarding what he considers a worst-case scenario. “We don’t need to make a projection when it’s such a moving target that you could so easily be wrong and mislead people.”

The virus has hit hard in big American cities like New York, Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago, and has also made its way into rural America with outbreaks in small Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens.

New York remains the worst-hit U.S. city and is home to more than a third of the country’s cases. There have been more than 44,000 cases statewide and more than 500 deaths. The United Nations has donated 250,000 protective face masks to New York City.

Passengers of Holland America’s cruise ship Zaandam are transferred to the Rotterdam cruise ship in Panama City bay on Saturday.The Zaandam cruise ship has been stranded at sea since March 14 after several South American ports refused to let it dock due to dozens of people aboard having shown flu-like symptoms. (Ivan Pisarenko/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump backed away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, instead directing Saturday night that a “strong travel advisory” be issued to stem the spread of the outbreak.

More help for vulnerable groups

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new federal funding on Sunday for those experiencing higher levels of stress because of self-isolation policies — including children, seniors, the homeless and those facing violence at home.

He said the government is contributing $ 7.5 million to Kids Help Phone to hire more counsellors, adding that children feeling anxious should go online, call 1-800-668-68968, or text 686868 to reach the service.

WATCH | An employment lawyer says the COVID-19 ‘trickle effect’ on our economy will be long-standing:

Lawyer Muneeza Sheikh talks about layoffs, disruptions during coronavirus pandemic 5:33

Trudeau also said he’s offering $ 9 million to the United Way through the government’s New Horizons for Seniors Program to help provide things such as health checks and grocery or meal delivery service.

The government is allocating $ 200 million to help the homeless or those fleeing family violence or sexual violence, he said.

At sea, a Holland America cruise ship hit with a COVID-19 outbreak will be allowed through the Panama Canal, as it heads for its final destination in Florida.

WATCH | Toronto doctor describes what it’s like on the COVID-19 front lines:

Dr. Joshua Tepper is the president and CEO of North York General Hospital in Ontario.  1:53

Since a stop in Chile on March 14, the ship has been turned away from several ports after reporting that some of those on board were suffering from flu-like symptoms. Panama on Saturday reversed its decision to block the ship from the canal.

Global Affairs Canada says there are 248 Canadians stranded aboard MS Zaandam, where some passengers have tested positive for the virus and four people have died. No Canadians on the vessel are reported ill.

A woman arrives at the COVID-19 assessment centre at the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto on March 24. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The operator said on Saturday that it would be transferring asymptomatic people on board to Holland America’s sister ship the Rotterdam, which was also given permission to transit the Panama Canal.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne says he has been co-ordinating with his Panamanian counterpart and will continue efforts to bring any non-infected Canadians home once the ship docks in Fort Lauderdale.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will give his daily briefing to Canadians on the coronavirus pandemic at 11:15 a.m. ET. CBC News will cover it live right here.  

WATCH | A COVID-19 patient asks Canadians to obey doctors, government:

B.C. resident Erin Leigh, 38, is recovering from the novel coronavirus in hospital. She told CBC News she had never experienced an illness like COVID-19. 7:00

The number of cases of the respiratory illness stands at more than 663,800 across the globe, with more than more than 30,000 deaths. Canada now has 5,866 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, and at least 63 deaths, with more than 500 people recovered, according to figures compiled on Sunday. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Saturday announced stiff new measures to prevent price gouging for important products during the COVID-19 crisis. He said individuals found guilty of price gouging could face fines of $ 100,000, while company directors could face fines of $ 500,000 as well as a year in jail. Corporations may be fined as much as $ 10 million.

Canada’s most populous province is also prohibiting gatherings of more than five people, replacing an order that barred public events of over 50 people. The new order does not apply to households with more than five people. Child care centres supporting health care workers and first responders are exempt. Funerals will be permitted with up to 10 people at one time.

Members of the Rhode Island National Guard look for passengers getting off from a train from New York as it arrives Saturday in Westerly, R.I. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

Transport Canada on Saturday has laid out new rules, in effect on Monday, for domestic travel, meaning anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 won’t be allowed to board a domestic flight or inter-city passenger train.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and lead to death.

More than 130,000 people have recovered, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, says she has recovered from COVID-19 after contracting the illness while on a trip to the United Kingdom earlier this month.

WATCH | Sophie Grégoire Trudeau says she’s recovered from COVID-19:

In a series of videos on Instagram, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau says she has been given a ‘clear bill of health’ from health officials. She thanked Canadians for their support and offered encouragement to get through the pandemic. 2:08

As the pandemic continues to shift westward, the situation has calmed in China, where some restrictions on people’s lives have now been lifted. Six subway lines have restored limited service in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December.

China reported 45 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for Saturday, down from 54 on the previous day, with all but one involving travellers from overseas, the country’s health authority said on Sunday local time. China also reported five new deaths on Saturday, all of which were in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the COVID-19 respiratory illness was first identified. A total of 3,300 people have now died in mainland China, with a reported 81,439 infections.

WATCH | A laid-off Sunwing pilot talks about recovering from COVID-19:

‘Won’t be travelling for a while,’ laid-off pilot Derek Butcher tells CBC   4:45

The Chinese Embassy in Canada said on Twitter on Saturday that the Bank of China donated medical supplies to Canada, including 30,000 medical masks.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Champagne welcomed the donations, saying on Twitter: “In the face of a global pandemic, supporting each other is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

In February, Canada donated 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment to China as it grappled with the peak of its outbreak.

WATCH | Infected Canadian flight attendants speak out:

Airline crews tell CBC they didn’t feel adequately protected from COVID-19 after several employees test positive for the illness. 2:01

Infant who tested positive in Illinois has died

The first infant death related to COVID-19 in the United States has been reported in the Chicago area. The Illinois Department of Public Health said in a statement Saturday that the child was younger than one year in age and tested positive for the virus.

“Right now things are really dire. We’re seeing a lot more sick patients. Our hospitals are full, the emergency department is full,” Ugo Ezenkwele, chief of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Queens hospital, told CBC News on Sunday.

“Three weeks ago, we saw a patient come in with mild symptoms, and now we’re seeing patients who are fairly sick, severely sick, requiring more oxygen,” he said, adding the hospital in the New York City borough of Queens is no longer doing elective surgeries.


Mexico’s deputy health minister Hugo López-Gatell on Saturday called for all residents in Mexico to stay at home for a month, saying it was the only way to reduce the transmission rate. Mexican health authorities said the country had 848 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday, 131 more than the previous day, and 16 deaths.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a letter being sent to 30 million households in the U.K. that “things will get worse before they get better.” The government released the letter Saturday as Johnson continued to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 and the number of cases in the U.K. rose to 17,089, with 1,019 deaths.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, has said the fight against the pandemic is far from over and that it could include a second wave.

“We have now completed tests for over 184,000 people in Canada, which is 84,000 additional people tested since Monday,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Saturday.

Air Canada lines up additional flights

Since March 21, Air Canada has operated nine special flights in collaboration with the federal government to bring Canadians home from various countries — three flights from Morocco, three from Peru, two from Ecuador and one from Spain. The airline issued a news release on Saturday, announcing the following flights for Canadians:

Here’s what’s happening in Canada’s provinces and territories

In British Columbia, the provincial government reported 92 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, boosting the provincial total to 884. On a more positive note, provincial health officer Doctor Bonnie Henry said 396 people have recovered from the illness in B.C. Read more in this analysis about how the curve could be flattening in B.C., but any definitive declaration of “turning the corner” cannot yet be made.

Mandatory curfews have been implemented in an Indigenous community in northeastern Alberta, and residents are being warned that member benefits could be lost — and even stricter provisions brought in — if they don’t comply. Determined to keep COVID-19 out of the community of about 750 people, Fort McKay First Nation and McKay Métis had put up a barrier near the entrance of the community. Members need to log in and out, and visitors are not allowed in. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta, including a story from Edmonton about a laptop drive aiming to connect marginalized people during the coronavirus pandemic.

WATCH | Canmore, Alta., and other small towns worried about influx of visitors:

As some Canadians across the country go to cottage country to isolate with their families during the COVID-19 crisis, small town mayors worry about the stress it will put on local health-care systems. 1:49

Saskatchewan said there’s been a large increase in cases connected with a snowmobile rally held earlier this month. Health officials now say 18 cases in total have been linked to the event, and all of them are self-isolating at home. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba is expanding its COVID-19 testing to include symptomatic health workers, people who live in group care settings (including long-term care and remote work camps), inmates and more. Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin also said all people living on First Nations in the province who are experiencing respiratory symptoms will be tested. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba, which recorded its first death on Friday.

Messages on a sidewalk showing support for health-care workers are seen in Toronto on Saturday. (Alan Habbick/CBC)

Ontario reported 211 more cases on Sunday and two new deaths. This brings the provincial total to 1,355 cases and 21 deaths. The province is cracking down on price gouging for essential hygiene and medical supplies. On Saturday, Premier Doug Ford announced an emergency order bringing in immediate new fines and potential jail time. The province has also banned gatherings of more than five people, effective immediately, with some small exceptions. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.

Quebec Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbault is announcing police checkpoints as of this afternoon in eight regions outside major Quebec cities where the population is deemed more at risk. Guilbault says only essential travel will be allowed in those regions and that Quebec provincial police have also set up checkpoints near the Canada-U.S. border to intercept snowbirds returning to the province to ensure they understand there’s a 14-day quarantine. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.

New Brunswick has announced a special line for health-care workers to call if they have symptoms. Public Health in the province is instructing health workers who’ve developed symptoms since March 20 to self isolate. Read more about what’s happening in New Brunswick, including news on how many layoffs are being blamed on the pandemic, and how physical distancing is affecting parents of newborns.

In Nova Scotia, the head of the province’s telephone health service says anyone who gets a referral will get a COVID-19 test. Dr. Todd Howlett, medical director of 811, said the service is adapting to meet the demand created by the outbreak. Read more about what’s happening in Nova Scotia.

Prince Edward Island has reported a total of 11 cases of COVID-19, with two new cases, one woman in her 20s and another in her 50s who both travelled internationally. Read more about what’s happening in P.E.I.

WATCH | How COVID-19 is affecting grocery stores:

As Canadians continue to grapple with physical distancing and how to deal with COVID-19, most grocery store workers still have to go to work and come in contact with others. 2:17

Newfoundland and Labrador health officials are expressing concerns after finding the first case of community transmission of COVID-19. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says a patient admitted to a hospital in St. Anthony, N.L., was one of the 18 new cases announced on Saturday. Fitzgerald describes the case as a significant development because the patient had no history of travel or exposure to a known case of COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.

Health authorities in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec have confirmed a case of the novel coronavirus. Kativik Regional Police say a woman is in self-isolation while “sharing a house with others” in Salluit, a hamlet of about 1,200 people on the Hudson Strait. Residents of that community, as well as Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui in northern Quebec are under a nighttime curfew, imposed Saturday.

Here’s what’s happening in the United States

From Reuters, updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

In the U.S., a 49-year-old prisoner in Oakdale, La., who was serving a 27-year prison term for a drug charge, became the first federal inmate to die from COVID-19, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced late on Saturday. A total of 14 inmates and 13 staff in federal prisons across the United States have fallen ill with the virus, according to the BOP’s website.

Cities including Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans are growing as hotspots of infection, while New York City continues to be pummelled. Nurses there are calling for more masks and other gear to safeguard themselves against the virus that has so far sickened more than 52,000 people and killed over 700 in New York state, mostly in the city.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday warned residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut against non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.

The Rhode Island National Guard started going door to door on Saturday in coastal areas to inform any New Yorkers who may have come to the state that they must self-quarantine for 14 days. Gov. Gina Raimondo expanded the mandatory self-quarantine to anyone visiting the state. She also ordered residents to stay at home, with exceptions for getting food, medicines or going to the doctor, and ordered nonessential retail businesses to close Monday until April 13.

Health officials in Detroit, where poverty and poor health are longstanding problems. The number of infections surged to 1,381, with 31 deaths, as of noon Saturday.

“At this time, the trajectory of Detroit is unfortunately even more steep than that of New York,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, the medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center.

WATCH | ‘We are fighting a war’ says Canadian nurse in Detroit:

Jenna Meloche lives in Amherstburg and works in Detroit where the number of COVID-19 deaths is rising. 2:05

On Friday, Trump signed a sweeping $ 2.2-trillion relief bill into law, only hours after it had been approved by the House of Representatives, after having been passed by the Senate earlier this week. 

He also invoked emergency powers to require General Motors Co. to build much-needed ventilators after he accused the largest U.S. automaker of “wasting time” during negotiations.

Britain has placed an order for 10,000 ventilators to be made by a consortium of companies including Ford, Airbus and Rolls-Royce as part of efforts to fight coronavirus, an industry source told Reuters.

Here’s what’s happening in Europe

From Reuters and The Associated Press, updated at 5:00 a.m. ET

The death toll in Italy surpassed 10,000 on Saturday, making it the highest of any country in the world. The number of fatalities surged Saturday by 889, bringing the country’s total to 10,023, according to the Civil Protection Agency.

Italy has the second highest number of cases, behind the United States. It surpassed China’s tally on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Vatican said Saturday that tests carried out in the residence where Pope Francis lives showed that the 83-year-old pontiff and his closest aides do not have coronavirus. Tests were made on 170 people in the Vatican and six were positive, including one who lives in the Santa Marta guesthouse.

WATCH | Pope Francis holds solitary Vatican service for those dealing with COVID-19 virus:

Under darkness and rain, Pope Francis holds solitary Vatican service for those dealing with COVID-19 virus 1:23

In France the next two weeks will be the toughest yet in the fight against coronavirus, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned on Saturday as his government raced to add intensive care beds and source protective gear. To free up intensive care beds in worst-hit areas, the army and emergency workers were this weekend stepping up the transfer of patients to less-affected regions, using a military helicopter and a specially adapted TGV train. 

By Saturday, the coronavirus had claimed 2,314 lives in France, with more than 37,575 confirmed cases, according to official figures.

In the United Kingdom, 17,089 people have tested positive and 1,019 have died of COVID-19 as of Saturday morning, the Department of Health and Social Care said on Twitter. Britons should be prepared for a “significant period” in lockdown, senior cabinet minister Michael Gove said on Sunday.

Members of Quebec’s provincial police force talk to a driver of a vehicle near the border of the United States in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

In Germany, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 52,547 and 389 people have died of the disease, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Sunday.

In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced his government will order a two-week ban on commuting to all non-essential businesses starting on Monday. In a publicly televised address, he said all workers are ordered to remain at home “as if it were a weekend” to “intensify” efforts to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Spain is approaching the end of the second week of stay-at-home rules and the closing of most stores, but workers were allowed to go to offices and factories if they were unable to work from home. Spain reported 6,528 fatalities on Sunday, up from 5,690 the previous day, and a total of 78,797 cases.

People practise physical distancing outside a grocery shop in London on Saturday. (Alberto Pezzali/Associated Press)

Ireland reported 14 deaths on Saturday, all in the east of the country and the most in a single day so far to bring the total number of fatalities to 36, the Department of Health said. The country also reported an additional 294 confirmed cases to bring the total to 2,415. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Friday ordered a lockdown until April 12. Travel more than two kilometres from home is banned, while all those over 70 are being instructed to “cocoon.”

In Russia, the mayor of Moscow urged residents on Saturday to stay home during the non-working week announced by President Vladimir Putin in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. Russian authorities say they recorded 1,264 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, a rise of 228, the largest daily increase since the start of the outbreak. The government says it will close all border crossings on March 30; the country has already grounded all international flights and declared next week a non-working week.

Health workers are seen with a patient at San Pedro hospital, in Logrono, northern Spain, on Saturday. (Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press)

In southern Finland, police are preparing to enforce the new regulation aimed at ceasing all unnecessary human traffic to and from Uusimaa, the region that includes the capital, Helsinki, according to Social Affairs Minister Krista Kiuru. The Nordic country has so far confirmed 958 coronavirus cases — the vast majority of them in Uusimaa — and five deaths. The exceptional move, which is set to end April 19, affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland’s population.

Switzerland’s infections topped 11,800 as the government pumped money into the economy and army medical units helped hospitals. Swiss authorities are lighting up one of their most famed landmarks, the Matterhorn, to show solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus.

The iconic Matterhorn mountain is illuminated in Zermatt, Switzerland. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP)

Here’s a look at what’s happening in some other parts of the world

Forty-six passengers onboard the German cruise ship Artania have been reported as showing COVID-19 symptoms, according to Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan on Saturday. The Artania was allowed to pull into in Fremantle, Western Australia, on Thursday and sick passengers were taken off to be treated in Perth on Friday. The state government initially had not wanted the ship to dock and tried to divert it to a military base. There are more than 800 people onboard the vessel.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologized to the public on Sunday for imposing a three-week national lockdown, calling it harsh but “needed to win” the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. The unprecedented lockdown order, which came into effect on Wednesday to keep India’s 1.3 billion people at home for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies, is meant to prevent the spread of the virus from surging and overwhelming India’s already strained health care system. Indian health officials have confirmed 867 cases of the coronavirus, including 25 deaths.

A security guard checks the temperature of a customer arriving at a supermarket during the partial lockdown in Malaysia on Friday, March 27, in Penang, Malaysia. (Goh Chai Hin/AFP via Getty Images)

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday promised an unprecedented package of steps to cushion the world’s third-biggest economy from the pandemic, saying the country was close to a national emergency as infections surged. The size of the package will exceed that compiled in response to the global financial crisis of 2008, which was worth a total 57 trillion yen ($ 740 billion Cdn), Abe said.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike issued a plea following a surge in infections this week that she said put Tokyo on the brink of an emergency. She asked the tens of millions of people in the city and surrounding regions to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings until April 12, particularly this weekend.

Japan reported 68 new cases on Sunday for more than 1,700 cases, excluding 712 from a cruise ship, with 55 deaths, public broadcaster NHK said Sunday. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has asked the tens of millions of people in the city and surrounding regions to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings until April 12, particularly this weekend. 

Workers arrange beds to prepare a quarantine centre at a sports complex in Gauhati, India, on Saturday. (Anupam Nath/Associated Press)

Malaysia reported 150 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the total to 2,470, the highest in Southeast Asia. The number of deaths from the virus outbreak rose by seven to 34, the health ministry said.

Iran has confirmed another 144 deaths from the coronavirus and says thousands more are in critical condition as the military completed work on a 2,000-bed field hospital in an exhibition centre in the capital. Iran has reported nearly 2,400 deaths among more than 32,000 cases.

Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted they have the outbreak under control, despite concerns it could overwhelm the country’s health facilities. Authorities have urged people to stay home but have not imposed the sweeping lockdowns seen elsewhere in the region.

In the continent of Africa, coronavirus has now spread to dozens of the 47 countries of the WHO Africa region, with 2,650 infected and 49 dead, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday. 

Saudi Arabia recorded 99 new cases on Saturday, taking its total to more than 1,200 coronavirus infections — the most in the Gulf Arab region, with four fatalities. On Sunday local time, the Kingdom said it was extending indefinitely the suspension of international passenger flights and workplace attendance in both public and private sectors among efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

South Africa has the most cases in Africa and as of midnight entered a three-week lockdown. In Johannesburg, police fired tear gas and beat people on the streets and in camps as the country’s first day of a coronavirus curfew slid into chaos.

In Kenya, ferry commuters racing to board a boat in Mombasa to beat the local curfew were met with tear gas.

South African National Defence Forces enforcing a lockdown patrol outside a hostel in the densely populated Alexandra township east of Johannesburg on Saturday. (Jerome Delay/Associated Press)

Indonesia authorities in Jakarta have extended a state of emergency for the next two weeks. The country has reported 102 deaths and 1,155 infections.

The United Arab Emirates extended on Saturday to April 5 a nightly curfew to sterilize public places to combat the coronavirus as neighbouring Qatar reported its first death from the disease.

Turkey halted all intercity trains and limited domestic flights on Saturday, as the number of coronavirus cases jumped by a third in a day to 5,698, with 92 dead.

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CBC | Health News

Are colds lasting longer? How long are you infectious? Answers to common questions

Early sunsets and chilly temperatures signal a shift from the itchy, watery eyes and sneezing associated with pollen allergies to the runny noses and coughs of winter cold and flu season.

But just how long should these respiratory bugs last? And how long are you contagious? Here are some answers.

Are coughs from colds lasting longer now than before?

Probably not.

“What I see doing pediatric clinics is that once a child gets a cold-like illness, like a runny nose and cough, is that people presume that it will all be gone within a couple of days,” said Dr. Jonathan Gubbay, a medical microbiologist and pediatric infectious disease physician in Toronto.

That’s not exactly right.

“For most of us, it’s a seven-day thing and it’s gone,” said David Proud, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at the University of Calgary. “We whine and complain, but [the cold infection] is really self-limiting.”

Proud studies people infected with cold viruses as part of his research into how colds can trigger attacks of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He said that in a “tiny” percentage of people, colds can have side-effects such as otitis media, or middle ear infections, which can be worse in those with a tendency to sinusitis.

How long are people infectious?

Gubbay said people are infectious for the first few days after symptoms start, particularly the period with a fever. Health guidelines generally recommend keeping kids home from school until the fever is gone for 24 hours.

What treatments are recommended?

“The old joke that we have is, you can take all the best available current medications to treat it and it’ll go away in a week. Or you can do nothing and it will go away in seven days,” Proud said.

The reason, Proud said, is there’s not much clinical trial evidence, which is the gold standard, to tell if over-the-counter cold medications help.

Hand hygiene is key to preventing the spread of cold and flu germs. (Photo illustration by Ute Grabowsky/Photothek/Getty)

Even so, fever can be uncomfortable for children and adults and fever reducers can help, said Dr. Michelle Murti, a public health physician and Gubbay’s colleague at Public Health Ontario.

“Warm, hot liquid can help make the mucus less sticky and help it drain a little bit better,” Murti said. “That’s why having that steam or a nice hot water or hot tea can be a soothing thing.”

Murti added that honey can also help with coughs. One important caution: Children under the age of one shouldn’t have honey because of the risk of botulism.

Cold vs. influenza

Murti said adults don’t tend to get a fever with a cold. Now that flu season has begun in every province and territory, if an adult has a fever and cough that comes on suddenly, consider influenza.

At the end of December and early January, Murti said Canadians will probably see more flu, with a sudden onset of cough, fatigue, muscle aches and “feeling like you got run over by a truck.”

Health officials recommend flu vaccines. “That’s really the best prevention measure that we have,” she said.

Gubbay said lab testing for influenza isn’t recommended for patients outside of the hospital, because it takes days to get the results, which is too late to decide on giving patients antiviral medications.

What about coughs after colds?

O.K., you’re no longer going through boxes of tissues. But then the cough sets in … and keeps going.

“We have a physician here who has a chronic cough clinic precisely because … people don’t really understand, if you’ve never experienced it, how miserable it can make life,” said Proud, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in inflammatory airway diseases. “It’s actually quite irritating for people, to say the least, not to mention disruptive.”

No one knows why such coughs occur. “We think it may have something to do with [people’s] nerves and their sensitivity to various kinds of irritants, but that’s really not much more than an educated guess,” Proud said.

Gubbay suggested saltwater sprays or drops can help dry up the nose to prevent such coughs.

The good news is that after a couple of weeks of a prolonged cough, people generally aren’t infectious, because they’re not bringing up the same level of virus as earlier, Murti said.

When is a cough more serious? 

Murti said concerning symptoms of a cough include:

  • Coughing to the point where you can’t breathe.
  • Throwing up from a cough.
  • Difficulty with underlying respiratory conditions, such as asthma or COPD.

A prolonged, more severe, wheezing cough could be from whooping cough, also called pertussis, a bacterial infection.

Gubbay said respiratory illness in an infant, particularly in the first few months, is worth having checked out by a health-care practitioner. Ditto for a fever in an older child that’s lasted more than 48 hours, or if there are symptoms beyond a runny nose and cough. These include looking lethargic with low energy levels, breathing quickly or requiring a lot of effort to breathe.

How to prevent spread

Murti said cold viruses can last on your skin, including your hands, for a couple of hours after a cough or sneeze. That’s why it is important to wash your hands with soap and water often in the first five to seven days of a cold, and to use hand sanitizer. 

Public health experts also recommend sneezing into the elbow of your sleeve instead of your hands.

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Why Venezuela's crisis could spark a surge in infectious diseases

A humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is accelerating the re-emergence of malaria, Chagas disease, dengue, Zika and other dangerous infectious diseases and threatens to jeopardize 20 years of public health gains, experts warned.

In a review published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Thursday, researchers said the worsening epidemics could spread beyond Venezuela's borders, potentially causing a regional public health emergency.

"As well as the return of measles and other vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, the continued upsurge in malaria could soon become uncontrollable," said Martin Llewellyn, a doctor and senior lecturer at Britain's Glasgow University who led the review with researchers from Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador.

Frustrated workers, worried patients as supplies run low at Caracas hospital 1:33

He said that with its health care system collapsing and a dramatic drop in public health programs and disease surveillance, vector-borne diseases — those transmitted by insects such as mosquitoes and ticks — are on the rise and have spread into new territories across Venezuela.

The country was declared by the World Health Organization to have eradicated malaria in 1961.

Llewellyn's team analyzed published and unpublished data and found that between 2010 and 2015, Venezuela saw an estimated 359 per cent rise in malaria cases. This was followed by a 71 per cent rise between 2016 and 2017 because of a decline in mosquito-control activities and shortages in medication.

The review also found the crisis is having dramatic effects on other vector-borne diseases in Venezuela. Active transmission of Chagas disease, for example, is the highest seen in 20 years, and incidence of dengue fever has risen more than five-fold.

Outbreaks of two other mosquito-borne diseases —chikungunya and Zika — also appear to be increasing, the researchers found.

The researchers said their findings should also be seen in the context of mass emigration. With an average of 5,500 people leaving Venezuela every day in 2018, they said, neighbouring countries face the risk of potential imports of infectious disease outbreaks.

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