Today’s coronavirus news: Asian Games in China postponed because of spread of COVID-19

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

7:22 a.m. Two new COVID-19 outbreaks in Halton have been revealed Thursday, according to Halton Public Health.

A new outbreak at Sunrise of Burlington retirement home is affecting the third floor and was declared May 3, according to Halton Region.

Meanwhile, there’s also a new outbreak at Martindale Gardens retirement home in Milton that was declared May 4 and is affecting the Fourth Floor of the building. It’s unknown how many infections are connected to the outbreaks. There are three active and known outbreaks in Milton and five in Burlington.

6:37 a.m. The use of Johnson and Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, also known as Janssen, has been limited to “certain individuals” over rare blood clot risks, the US Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday, May 5.

It’s now limited to those 18 and older “for whom other authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines are not accessible or clinically appropriate,” the FDA’s statement said. Additionally, those 18 and older can opt to get the J&J shot if “they would otherwise not receive a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Janssen Pharmaceuticals said “our number one priority is the safety and well-being of those who use the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine,” in a statement provided to McClatchy News and noted its fact sheet on the single-dose shot has been updated in coordination with the FDA.

6:36 a.m. Less than three months after Beijing hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the Olympic Council of Asia said Friday that this year’s Asian Games in China are being postponed because of concerns about the spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the country.

The OCA said it had not picked new dates but said they would be announced “in the near future” after talks with local organizers and the Chinese Olympic Committee.

The OCA statement said local organizers were “very well prepared to deliver the games on time despite the global challenges. However, the decision was made by all the stakeholders after carefully considering the pandemic situation and the size of the games.”

The postponement reflects a growing concern among the Chinese leadership about rapidly spreading outbreaks from Shanghai to Beijing in an important political year. The ruling Communist Party is holding a major meeting this fall and doesn’t want any signs of instability, pandemic-related or not.

China is staying with a “zero-COVID” strategy of lockdowns and other restrictions despite the economic costs and the fact that many other countries around the world are loosening up and trying to live with the virus.

6:36 a.m. Hundreds of workers at a technology factory in China clashed with authorities and flooded past isolation barriers after weeks under lockdown, a stunning breakdown in the Communist Party’s efforts to contain COVID-19 infections.

The Shanghai factory, which is owned by Taiwan’s Quanta Computer Inc. and makes devices for Apple Inc. among others, has been operating under tight restrictions since the beginning of April. In a video shared on Twitter and YouTube, workers rushed through barriers and tangled with guards in white protective gear who tried to keep them inside.

Quanta employees confirmed the clash occurred Thursday evening, while the company did not immediately provide comment. One worker said that people are worried about further tightening because there are positive COVID cases on the campus. The government is taking a central role in managing the plant’s operations, said another employee on-site.

6:35 a.m. Chinese cities are moving toward regular mandatory free testing for COVID-19, an approach that would cost the government 1.8% of gross domestic product if it’s rolled out to more places, according to an estimate from Nomura Holdings Inc.

Testing 70% of the population every two days would amount to 8.4% of China’s fiscal expenditure, Nomura economists led by chief China economist Lu Ting wrote in a note. That’s based on the cost of a single-person polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test of 20 yuan.

The spending could “crowd out” other government expenditure in areas such as infrastructure, the economists wrote, adding that “there are also opportunity costs, as people have to spend time every two days to take the test.”

The benefits of regular mass tests would be limited by the greater-infectiousness of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, according to Nomura. As a result cities will continue to face frequent lockdowns and intercity travel will remain limited, he said.

6:30 a.m If you’ve already had COVID-19, your booster is still your best line of defense against severe outcomes, according to Dr. Barry Pakes, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health.

In his weekly update on the local fight against COVID-19, the Region’s top doctor said that while uptake on third and fourth doses of a COVID-19 vaccine had been encouraging York Regionwide, questions were still being asked whether they were still necessary after a about the virus.

“Over 30,000 fourth doses have been administered to York Region residents 60 years of age or older (and) the fourth dose is particularly important for those over 70 and 80,” said Dr. Pakes. “So, we strongly encourage older York Region residents to get their booster as soon as possible. Anyone above the age of 12 should now have three doses and children 5 – 11 should have two doses.

“The protection provided by the vaccine (after experiencing COVID) is longer-lasting and better than having COVID-19 disease and it is also far safer. If you haven’t received a fourth dose, please make an appointment.”

While the Region continues its push for boosters, there are hopeful signs on the horizon, I added.

“It was recently shared in a GTA newspaper column that COVID-19 reports are now somewhat like speaking about the weather: it is hard to say something new, but we still need to know about changing conditions so we can be prepared and respond,” said Dr. Pakes. “But, in fact there are new developments with COVID-19 and our response each and every hour, every day and every week, so I look forward to continuing to share these updates with you.

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