Today’s coronavirus news: Australia’s ban on cruise ships ends; Easter Sunday marks a return to in-person worship for many

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

8:20 am Patients with COVID-19 can harbor the coronavirus in their stool for months after infection, researchers have found, fearing that its persistence could aggravate the immune system and cause long-lasting COVID symptoms.

In the largest study tracking SARS-CoV-2 RNA in feces and symptoms of COVID-19, scientists at Stanford University in California found that about half of infected patients lost traces of the virus in their waste during the week following infection and nearly 4% of patients still shed them seven months later. The researchers also linked coronavirus RNA in feces to gastric upset and concluded that SARS-CoV-2 likely directly infects the gastrointestinal tract, where it can hide.

“This raises the question that ongoing infections in hidden parts of the body may be important for the long COVID,” said Ami Bhatt, lead author of the study published online last week in the journal Med, and associate professor of Medicine and Genetics at Stanford. A persistent virus could directly invade cells and damage tissue or produce proteins that challenge the immune system, she said in an interview.

No one yet knows what causes the constellation of post-COVID-19 symptoms, often referred to as long COVIDs, that afflict 5% to 80% of people after infection with SARS-CoV-2. It’s possible that at least four different biological mechanisms lead to distinct conditions or subtypes of long COVID, said Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunobiology and molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University.

“Long COVID is probably several different diseases,” Iwasaki said last week in an interview at his lab in New Haven, Connecticut. In one of those forms, persistent SARS-CoV-2 can trigger a damaging immune response that leads to conditions that could be suppressed with drugs that target the virus, she said.

8:20 am For many American Christians, this weekend marks the first time since 2019 that they will gather in person on Easter Sunday, a welcome opportunity to celebrate one of the holiest days of the year side by side with d other devotees.

The pandemic broke out in the country in March 2020, just before Easter, forcing many churches to resort to online or televised worship. Many continued to hold virtual services last spring after a deadly winter surge of coronavirus and as vaccination campaigns continued to ramp up. But this year, more churches are opening their doors for Easter services with few COVID-19 restrictions, in line with broader societal trends.

Among them are Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, which since last June have again required most worshipers to attend Mass in person – although those who pose health risks can still watch from a distance, and pastors have been urged to make room for social distancing in churches.

MC Sullivan, chief health care ethicist for the archdiocese, said celebrating mass together is important to how Catholics profess their faith. Church attendance is on the rise and parishioners are excited to gather again to commemorate Christ’s resurrection.

8:19 Several businesses and residents have filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania state court seeking to overturn the renewal of Philadelphia’s indoor mask mandate set to take effect starting Monday in a bid to stop a spike in COVID infections. -19.

The lawsuit, filed in Commonwealth Court on Saturday, said Philadelphia had no authority to impose such a warrant.

Earlier this week, Philadelphia became the first major US city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, with the city’s top health official saying it wanted to prevent a potential new wave driven by an omicron sub-variant.

Attorney Thomas W. King III, who was among those involved in last year’s successful challenge to the statewide mask mandate in schools, said the emergency order of the city went against recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “imposed a renegade standard not found anywhere else in the world.”

The lawsuit accuses city health officials of ‘usurping power and authority’ from state legislators, the state health department and the state health advisory board. .

8:18 Australia’s two-year ban on cruise ships expires on Sunday, another step towards rehabilitating tourism after the damage caused by the pandemic.

The ban on foreign cruise ships – imposed in March 2020 after a COVID outbreak aboard the Ruby Princess spread to Sydney once the ship docked – has cost the Australian economy more than $10 billion Australian dollars ($7.4 billion), estimates the Cruise Lines International Association.

Operators are “preparing for a carefully managed resumption of operations in a sector that previously supported more than 18,000 Australian jobs,” the association said in a statement before the ban expired.

Australian states will determine when vessels can enter now that the federal ban has expired. Safety measures include vaccination requirements for crew and passengers over 12, as well as mask and Covid testing protocols.

P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Explorer will be among the first ships to dock in Sydney Harbor on Monday before returning to service in late May.

Before COVID, 1.6 million cruise passengers visited Sydney in 2017 and 2018, according to official figures. The pandemic has hit cruise ships particularly hard after high-profile outbreaks led to various ports blocking access.

Tourism industry bodies say there is significant pent-up demand for cruises, but it is unclear whether fear of the disease will permanently affect the sector. Global travel stocks have yet to recover the ground lost due to the pandemic and have significantly lagged global stocks since the start of 2020.

Australia eased border restrictions this year, building on high vaccination rates as part of a learning to live with coronavirus strategy.

8:15 a.m. The Shanghai government has urged the city’s elderly residents to ensure they are fully vaccinated and receive booster shots once the city’s lockdown is lifted.

Only 62% of residents aged 60 or older had received two injections of COVID-related vaccines as of April 15, Wu Jinglei, director of the Shanghai Health Commission, said in a briefing on Sunday. Of those, 38% had booster shots, Wu said.

Risks from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus for unvaccinated older adults are high, based on domestic and foreign case surveillance, with patients showing severe, critical and in some cases fatal symptoms, Wu said.

Older people with conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can get the shot as long as they are taking their routine medications and their symptoms are stable, he said.

Shanghai reported 16 COVID cases with severe symptoms in the latest outbreak, 15 of whom are aged 70 or older and most of them are unvaccinated and have “serious” chronic illnesses.

City officials recorded 24,820 local COVID-19 infections Saturday, including 21,582 asymptomatic. While the number of cases is still “pretty high”, the ratio of infections detected among people potentially at risk has decreased, Wu said.

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