COVID-19 in spring 2022

As Toronto, Canada, and the rest of the world are dismantling their public health protection measures (masks are now mostly voluntary in Ontario) it seems like people’s frustration has gotten ahead of the reality that there will be further waves and variants, in part because of unequitable and insufficient vaccine distriubution globally and also partly because of the voluntarily unvaccinated who keep the virus circulating.

Based on conversations with friends and media from there the situation in China is drastically different. Tower blocks get routinely locked down by people in masks and full-body protective suits. Expatriots are afraid that they will test positive and be forced into an isolation facility.

Even if people would accept them, I wouldn’t say the Chinese tactics are necessary or attractive to emulate. Based on the reporting I have seen, their motives are more political than public spirited: declining to use more effective foreign vaccines out of nationalism, and insisting on “COVID zero” as an attempt to demonstrate the superirity of Chinese authoritarianism over chaotic democratic politics.

It’s obvious but worth repeating that the virus is unaffected by our emotions of exhaustion, frustration, and wanting the epidemic to be over. Measures including vaccine mandates and masking have always been justifiable mechanisms to slow the spread of disease and protect those with compromised immune systems and who cannot be vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons.

As so often, I wish people had a bit more fellow-feeling and less entitlement around what they should be able to do and to refuse. Politicians and members of the public desperate for ‘normality’ are delaying it by their intransience.

Between all the global forces at work today — from climate change and nuclear proliferation to loss of public trust in all institutions — I can’t help worrying that we’ll never see pre-COVID “normal” again. We may all be bound up in a developing crisis of profound global instability, where systems disrupted from the old normal trend into a new equilibrium instead of back to what we’ve grown to consider normal. Five or ten years from now, we might marvel about how normal and stable the pandemic times were.


Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

33 thoughts on “COVID-19 in spring 2022”

  1. It’s there in the World Health Organization’s announcement this week that BA.2, the highly contagious Omicron subvariant, is now the planet’s dominant strain of Omicron.

    BA.2 is believed to be 1.4 times more contagious than the BA.1 Omicron virus that sent much of Canada back into restrictions just before Christmas, and which has killed more than 7,000 Canadians since then.

  2. She added that as cases continue to rise, Canadians can continue to mitigate the strain rising cases of COVID-19 put on our healthcare system by beefing up their personal protective measures, including by wearing a mask, even if it’s not mandated.

    “The bottom line is, everybody, right now, I think, should still wear the mask,” Tam said.

    “Keep those layers of measures, no matter where you are in this country.”

  3. COVID-19 is on the rise again, but politicians are acting like the pandemic is over

    Rising infection and hospitalization rates seen in many provinces this week are entirely due to provincial governments lifting most, if not all, of their indoor capacity limits, proof-of-vaccination mandates and mask mandates in March.

    Now it’s April, and the expected consequences of those decisions – which were made just as a highly contagious Omicron subvariant, BA.2, was becoming dominant – are arriving right on schedule.

    Quebec’s public-health institute confirmed Wednesday that the province is in the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with B.A.2 accounting for two-thirds of new cases. Its modelling suggests 200 people a day will be admitted to hospital with the disease within two weeks. And that’s in a province where the indoor mask mandate is still in place until April 15.

    In Ontario, where most capacity limits and passport mandates were lifted on March 1, and most mask mandates and any remaining capacity limits ended March 21, all the signs point to a sixth wave.

    On Thursday, the province reported 807 people in hospital with COVID-19, the first time since March 4 that the number topped 800.

    The previous Thursday, the count was 661.

  4. Omicron is changing China’s covid strategy

    Beating the latest variant will require more vaccinations and less fear

    Still, Chinese leaders are not shy about proclaiming this strategy, which they call their “dynamic zero-covid” policy, an act of love. They say it is proof that the Communist Party cares for all its people. They contrast China with countries such as America that have chosen to “live with covid” in the name of individual liberties, amid horrifying numbers of deaths. The party’s love has a paternalist edge. Because officials risk the sack for cases found on their watch, they compete to invent ever-stricter rules. Like overprotective parents, authorities have treated suspected cases as medical emergencies. Anyone who develops a fever, for any reason, is meant to head to a fever clinic for hours of covid-detecting nasal swabs, chest scans and blood tests.

    Officials are not becoming less strict. During recent lockdowns, some people faced quarantine for receiving a package sent from a city with cases, for instance. But officials are sounding less tolerant of some fears. Health chiefs have called for greater efforts to get the elderly vaccinated, noting that two-thirds of Chinese with severe covid are aged over 60, and two-thirds of those sick mature folk have not had jabs. Anti-Western propaganda does not help: official media have repeatedly cast doubt on the safety of m rna shots used abroad. To date only Chinese-made vaccines have been approved in the country. Although they offer decent protection against severe disease and death, they do not prevent infection—and thus do little to stop the virus spreading.

  5. Africa has plenty of covid doses, but it lags in jabs

    Blame distribution problems and a lack of zeal

    As of March 15th, no less than 57% of the world’s population has been fully vaccinated against covid. Yet in Africa that share falls to 13%, according to Africa cdc, the continent’s main public-health body. A year ago many African countries rightly complained that they had been pushed to the back of the queue as richer countries bought up most of the world’s vaccines and producing countries banned exports.

    Now supplies are no longer a constraint. In January covax had 436m doses to allocate, but received requests for just 100m doses, the first time that supply has outstripped demand. It has also stepped up its deliveries. According to the World Health Organisation (who), the number of doses shipped every month to Africa doubled between November and January.

    Increased deliveries are exposing logistical defects in distribution within countries, while weak health-care systems have been unable to jab doses into arms as fast as they get them. Across Africa as a whole just 62% of delivered vaccines have been administered and 29 countries have used less than half of their supplies, says the who. Among the worst laggards are the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has used 15% of its consignments and jabbed less than 2% of its eligible population, and Burundi, which has used less than 2%.

  6. Because the province no longer conducts widespread polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, the number of reported cases each day picks up only a fraction of the true number of COVID infections in Ontario. Wastewater surveillance, which measures the level of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, in water carrying fecal matter flushed down our toilets is now the best indicator of case levels in the population.

    The wastewater readings have been steadily increasing over the past three weeks, during which time the province lifted capacity limits for most indoor public settings, eliminated the vaccine passport program and scrapped mask mandates at places like schools, gyms, bars and restaurants.

    “This is a pretty earnest, authentic signal that says, ‘yeah, we’re really heading into the storm.’ — and we’re not only heading into the storm, we’re doing it under full power,” said Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto. “If the goal were to create a wave as large as possible, then we have made all the right decisions.”

    He said he is not surprised we are entering another wave given that the province decided to drop mask mandates “at the very worst possible time” and decreased the self-quarantine period to five days when many people remain infectious beyond that time.

    “We know factually that that will accomplish one thing: it will put infectious people back in places where they can infect others.”

  7. Ontario is now seeing an estimated 100,000 new COVID-19 infections a day

    With highest number of daily infections reported since the beginning of the pandemic, experts warn of increased hospitalizations in the coming weeks and call for mandatory masking in essential businesses and schools.

    Masks are cheap, easy and effective. So why has public health ditched the mandate?

    It’s bizarre that our leaders have lifted mask mandates, then issued gentle reminders about the importance of mask wearing.

  8. Ontario’s top doctor rules out new mask mandates as COVID-19 infections skyrocket

    Province needs to give Toronto’s top doctor power to reimpose mask mandate amid rising COVID-19 data, says board of health

  9. To mask or not to mask? Without Ontario backing, businesses face potential legal landmines

    As COVID-19 cases skyrocket businesses that want health measures back face the uncertainty of public opinion

    But reinstating mask mandates and vaccine passports, Filar said, is difficult to enforce after the province ended measures on March 1. It also comes with legal implications.

    Businesses that bring back mask and vaccine measures face potential legal landmines if the province no longer enforces rules, said Julie Kwiecinski, director of provincial affairs for Ontario at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

    “When the rules were mandated by the province it gave businesses some protection against human rights and court challenges,” she said. “But if the businesses make the decision to reinstate these measures, they could be on their own when it comes to lawsuits or human rights complaints.”

    She said many businesses likely won’t reinstate the measures without provincial backing fearing legal ramifications. And customer anger over health measures and potential delays associated with the vaccine checks, especially for restaurants, are among reasons mandates won’t be reinstated. When the federation surveyed its members, she said, there was an even split among those wanting to keep or lose vaccine checks.

  10. Wear a mask, get boosted, regardless of various guidelines: Tam

    “Let me just emphasize all across Canada, doesn’t matter where you are, it’s very likely that the Omicron variant, the BA.2 sub-lineage is spreading quite widely in your community. So doesn’t matter where you are in Canada right now, I would advise getting that booster shot, masking and improving ventilation,” she said.

    ‘Beyond negligent’: Health experts critical of leadership on sixth COVID wave

    “Unfortunately, there is no sense of urgency in the population,” Tremblay said, due in part to the public being understandably fed up with measures and wanting a return to normalcy.

    Government messaging has also given an impression that “it’s no longer an emergency or it’s no longer important,” she added.

    “This is unfortunate because it’s still very, very important because the virus is circulating at levels almost similar to those seen in the fifth wave. And we know that some people are going to die and some people are going to get very, very sick.”

  11. “There are, however, some challenges with wastewater testing, mainly stemming from the variability of the data produced by each sample, Edwards said.

    Treatment plants vary in terms of age and design, she explained, which may result in a greater dilution of samples at some sites compared to others.

    “There’s a large margin of error, easily 50 per cent,” Edwards said. “But what else are we to do? We have to look at the data we have, as noisy as it is and as uncertain as it is, and make our best projections.”

    Several other factors can affect COVID-19 signals in wastewater as well, Hubert said. In Calgary, for example, water from precipitation is kept separate from wastewater collected in the sewage system, he said. In other cities, both are combined, which would dilute the covid-19 signal in those samples. Different communities also have varying proportions of residential and industrial water use contributing to their municipal wastewater.

    Hubert said he admits that while it may be tempting to compare levels between different cities or health regions, these comparisons won’t necessarily be accurate.

    “Every wastewater system for every community is going to have a lot of variables in it,” he said. “We just sort of keep those variables consistent … for that spot, but we don’t start to compare spots with each other, we just compare spots with themselves.””

  12. ““Intuitively for people, that’s easier to wrap our heads around,” said Hubert. “But converting wastewater signal into an actual number of cases I think is scientifically difficult.

    “I think it’s very hard to make that number accurate.”

    Part of the difficulty in making an accurate assessment is it’s not known whether everyone infected with COVID-19 sheds the same amount of virus through their feces, or whether these amounts differ based on whether someone has a severe case of COVID-19 versus a milder or asymptomatic infection, Prystajecky said.

    “We don’t know the viral loads, people aren’t testing individual patients and saying the average patient is shedding this much for this long,” she said. “To actually do those calculations and try to project that this level of wastewater [concentration] equals this amount in humans, we don’t have the data to actually do that model properly, which is why we’ve chosen not to do it in B.C.”

    “[Instead] you look at what’s been happening over the last week to see if we’re seeing an upward trend or downward trend or stable trend.””

  13. Highlighting COVID-19 racial disparities can reduce support for safety precautions among White U.S. residents

    Those who perceived COVID-19 racial disparities to be greater reported reduced fear of COVID-19, which predicted reduced support for COVID-19 safety precautions.


    Reading about the persistent inequalities that produced COVID-19 racial disparities reduced fear of COVID-19, empathy for those vulnerable to COVID-19, and support for safety precautions. These findings suggest that publicizing racial health disparities has the potential to create a vicious cycle wherein raising awareness reduces support for the very policies that could protect public health and reduce disparities.

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