B.C. Ferries takes steps to stem the spread of COVID-19 on its vessels

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      Passengers who travel on B.C. Ferries will no longer be able to chow down on its popular Pacific Buffet.

      This weekend, the Crown-owned company shut down this feast in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 cases in British Columbia.

      The vessels that offer this buffet are the Coastal Celebration, Spirit of Vancouver, and Spirit of Vancouver Island

      B.C. Ferries also announced that it's reducing service between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay on Sunday (March 15) and Monday (March 16) in response to declining demand.

      Transport Canada requires passengers on B.C. Ferries to stay off the lower car deck. As a result, staff have been instructing people that those on the lower level can't remain in their vehicles while the boat is travelling.

      Premier John Horgan has been trying to persuade the federal government to change this rule in the midst of the global pandemic.

      Elderly most at risk

      As of this morning, there have been 162,501 positive test results for COVID-19 worldwide. Of those, 75,968 have recovered and there have been 6,068 deaths.

      Among the 80,465 infected people, 93 percent are described to be of a mild condition and seven percent are serious.

      On March 3, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said that around 3.4 percent of people with COVID-19 had died, based on a snapshot of cases.

      That's significantly higher than the death rate of less than one percent for those who catch the seasonal flu.

      Vox, however, has reported that epidemiologists and disease modellers have said a "more reliable global case fatality rate is about 1 percent". That came with the caveat that there's still a great deal to learn about the virus.

      The Lancet, on the other hand, published a recent study suggesting a mortality rate of 3.6 percent among Chinese patients who had tested positive until March 1.

      "However, these mortality rate estimates are based on the number of deaths relative to the number of confirmed cases of infection, which is not representative of the actual death rate; patients who die on any given day were infected much earlier, and thus the denominator of the mortality rate should be the total number of patients infected at the same time as those who died," the paper stated.

      Its lead author was David Baud, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Switzerland's Lausanne University Hospital.

      "Notably, the full denominator remains unknown because asymptomatic cases or patients with very mild symptoms might not be tested and will not be identified," it continued. "Such cases therefore cannot be included in the estimation of actual mortality rates, since actual estimates pertain to clinically apparent COVID-19 cases."

      The death rate was higher for COVID-19 in the early stages in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated, skewing the numbers upward for the entire country. According to the WHO, it's been just 0.7 percent in other areas of the country, with the mortality rate nationwide at about 2.1 percent.

      The Lancet paper, however, included a more dramatic estimate of 5.6 percent for China and 15.2 percent outside of China by dividing the number of deaths on any given day by the number who had a confirmed infection 14 days earlier.

      "Global mortality rates over time using a 14-day delay estimate are shown in the figure, with a curve that levels off to a rate of 5-7% (5·5–5·9), converging with the current WHO estimates," the Lancet reported. "Estimates will increase if a longer delay between onset of illness and death is considered. A recent time-delay adjusted estimation indicates that mortality rate of COVID-19 could be as high as 20% in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

      "These findings show that the current figures might underestimate the potential threat of COVID-19 in symptomatic patients."

      Last month, a paper published in the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology looked at 44,000 confirmed cases in China as of February 11.

      Among those who were 80 years or older, it reported a fatality rate of 14.8 percent for all cases—and 21.9 percent for "confirmed cases" in that age bracket.

      People between 70 and 79 had a death rate of eight percent.

      Mortality fell to 3.6 percent for those between 60 and 69, and 1.3 percent for those between 50 and 59 years old.

      The study indicated that 0.4 percent—four in 1,000— of those with COVID-19 died if they were between 40 and 49 years old; that mortality rate fell to two in one thousand for those between 10 and 39 years of age.

      Canada's infection rate still far below Italy's

      The highest rate of infection in the world is in Italy, at 349.2 cases per million—that means 0.0034 percent of the population has tested positive.

      That's been enough to overrun the health-care system in parts of northern Italy, where medical staff are performing triage service.

      Italy has the second-oldest population in the world, with 23 percent being 65 or older. That ranks only behind Japan, where about 27 percent of the population is over 65 years old, according to the World Atlas.

      British Columbia has had 73 cases of COVID-19; Canada is up to 252 cases, including 12 who've recovered.

      That puts Canada's rate of COVID-19 at 6.7 per million. Health officials are trying to slow the growth in infections to ensure there's enough room in intensive-care wards to continue treating and providing ventilation to the most serious cases.

      According to Statistics Canada, the median age in this country is 40.8 years old. There are 6.6 million Canadians over the age of 65 and 1.6 million over the age of 80.

      Some countries—notably South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan—have had enormous success in preventing the pandemic from spreading.

      South Korea's massive testing program elevated the number of cases initially, but it only recorded three deaths and 76 new cases in its most recent report. That's despite a COVID-19 rate of 159.2 per million—the sixth highest in the world.

      In Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, the number of those recovering are either exceeding or catching up to the number of new cases.

      Ranking second to fifth in prevalence per million are Switzerland (256.2), Norway (222.3), Iran (165.9), and Spain (165.8).