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'A trip from hell:' Canadian passengers on Swoop flight to Hamilton 'stranded' in Mexico – CBC.ca

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More than 100 Swoop Airlines passengers who were expecting to arrive in Hamilton’s John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport on Tuesday were “stranded in Mexico” after a cancelled flight.

Passengers say they had a hard time getting information from the airline, were offered “dingy” places to stay in unsafe areas of the city, not provided with transportation and in some cases told they’d need to wait days for a new flight home. 

Amrit Jhooty, 26, from Brampton, Ont., tells CBC News she and other Canadians were set to board Flight WO651 from Cancún International Airport around 1:25 p.m.

Almost two hours later, staff at the airport told them the flight would be delayed.

“We kept asking someone at the front desk what was happening and they said it’ll only be a 5-10 minute delay,” she says.

“People were getting worried because we’re two hours in with no answers.”

Between 3 and 4 p.m., Jhooty says anxious passengers heard there was an accident on board caused the delay.

Helen Ball, 61, frrom Brampton, tells CBC News that about an hour later, airport staff revealed a flight attendant suffered a knee injury which required a trip to the hospital. 

Swoop told CBC News in a statement “industry regulations stipulate that we cannot operate a flight without a full complement of flight attendants.”

They watched the stewardess roll through the airport with ice on her knee, but still, Jhooty and Ball expected to make it home.

“It’s ridiculous to think the plane may have had to fly back empty with just the crew,” Ball says. “What a waste.”

Jennifer Woo, 37, from Bowmanville, was also waiting with her two daughters and husband, Jesse.

When they heard about the longer delay, they approached the staff to get Jesse’s medication from his checked baggage.

“He needs medication every five hours or else he’s in pain,” Woo says.

“They told us they could and then they couldn’t and then another person told us they couldn’t do it … and we made them very well aware that he needed it.”

We had to show airport staff the flight was cancelled for them to believe us.– Jennifer Woo, passenger on Flight WO651 

But at about 7:00 p.m., the mood in the airport worsened.

“Family members started messaging us saying that online our flight was cancelled,” Jhooty says.

Woo says she also got texts from family saying Hamilton listed the flight as cancelled.

Not long after, passengers say Swoop began sending emails to passengers officially cancelling the flight.

“I had a panic attack,” Jhooty says.

Jhooty and Woo say no one was able to get a hold of Swooop members, alleging that some staff hung up on them and did not respond via social media or email.

“When an incident occurs, call centre wait times do increase. We understand how frustrating it is when travel doesn’t go as planned and apologize for the inconvenience,”  read a statement from Swoop Airlines.

They also say tensions within the airport began to flare with miscommunications from employees and few accommodations, though Swoop Airlines says it offered meal vouchers.

“We had to show airport staff the flight was cancelled for them to believe us,” Woo says.

But Swoop also offered alternative flights. Some were set to take off the next day or the day after. 

Though, Jhooty would have to wait until Jan. 23 while Woo and Ball’s alternative flight was scheduled for Jan. 25.

“It was ridiculous,” Ball says.

Three to four more hours of waiting the hungry, fatigued and frustrated passengers began to collect their luggage at around 11 p.m.

Woo says her husband finally got a chance to take his medication.

“He was in pain today though … when we land and get back we’ll have to set up a doctor’s appointment to make sure everything is ok,” she says.

‘Cockroach-infested, two-star, really dingy place’

Swoop also provided passengers with a list of places to stay and Jhooty says the airline offered to pay for two nights. Passengers say one spot was a hostel while all three areas were in “unsafe” areas — and customers add the airline didn’t provide any means of transportation.

Ball’s daughter described the area where they stayed as what appeared to be “cartel territory.”

“It was a cockroach-infested, two-star, really dingy place,” Woo says. “It was a trip from hell.”

“The bed was on a piece of plywood … people in the hotel said ‘you really shouldn’t leave after dark because it’s a dangerous area,’ ” she says.

Jhooty opted for her own hotel instead.

Now, passengers are looking for compensation.

“I’ve spent $600 out of pocket, maybe more,” Ball says.

Ball, Woo and Jhooty are expecting to return to Canada on non-Swoop flights.

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BC floods: Evacuation ordered in Abbotsford area – CTV News

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VICTORIA —
British Columbia says it’s prepared to use a national emergency alert system should the third in a trio of ongoing storms pose a risk to life and safety in the coming days.

Alert Ready is a Canada-wide system that allows government officials to issue public safety alerts through major television and radio broadcasters, as well as compatible wireless devices. B.C. has faced criticism for not using it during deadly natural disasters this year.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says provincial officials are working with local governments, First Nations and emergency managers, adding the province is prepared to use the system should a community feel there is an imminent threat.

Farnworth made the comment during a briefing on an ongoing series of storms in the province in which officials warned that the third one, due to make landfall Monday, could reach intensities similar to those that destroyed highways, flooded communities and prompted mass evacuations two weeks ago.

Armel Castellan of Environment and Climate Change Canada says there is a lot of uncertainty at this stage, and while meteorologists hope the impacts remain as low as possible, they are urging maximum caution, vigilance and readiness for a “very strong storm and swell.”

The River Forecast Centre issued a new flood warning for the Coquihalla River and says the Nooksack River in the United States is at risk of overflowing its banks late today and spilling into Sumas Prairie.

Meanwhile, a new set of evacuation orders were issued for 56 properties in the Petit Creek-Spius Creek area west of Merritt, B.C.

“We’re in the middle of one of the most intense series of storms that we have seen along coastal B.C.,” Farnworth said.

“Once again, it’s time to be ready.”

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Canada's first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant confirmed in Ottawa – CBC.ca

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There are two confirmed cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in Ottawa, the Ontario government announced Sunday.

“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” the statement said.

These are the first cases of the omicron variant confirmed in Canada, coming just days after the country implemented new travel restrictions on foreign nationals who had visited several countries in southern Africa over the preceding two weeks.

Those travel restrictions went into effect on Friday. The omicron variant was first identified by South African researchers and has provoked global concern.

Passengers line up to get tested for COVID-19 at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Friday. The new coronavirus variant, omicron, was first identified by researchers in South Africa and has led a growing list of countries to ban travellers from several nations in southern Africa. (Jerome Delay/The Associated Press)

Little is known about the new variant, dubbed omicron by the World Health Organization and labelled as a variant of concern. It is being linked to a rapid rise of cases in a South African province.

It is not known at this time whether the variant is more transmissible, or more dangerous to the health of those who are infected by it, than other coronavirus variants.

“The best defence against the omicron variant is stopping it at our border. In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant,” said the statement from Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health.

The provincial government urged residents to get vaccinated, including with booster doses, and to continue following public health guidance.

“Ontario is prepared and ready to respond to this new variant.”

More confirmed cases likely: health minister

In a statement released Sunday, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the confirmation of two omicron cases is a signal that the country’s monitoring system is working but to expect more cases of the variant.

“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” Duclos said.

Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos, shown last year, said in a statement on Sunday that the confirmation of two omicron cases is a signal that Canada’s monitoring system is working but to expect more cases of the variant. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“I know that this new variant may seem concerning,” he added, but said existing vaccines and public health measures were helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In a separate statement, the Public Health Agency of Canada said border measures could change as the situation develops.

“The Government of Canada will continue to assess the evolving situation and adjust border measures as required,” it said

‘Better to be safe than sorry’

Reacting to the news, epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos emphasized the lack of information the world has so far about the omicron variant, noting that some other variants failed to take hold and out-compete the dominant strain.

“While it’s important not to under-react, it’s important not to overreact. We don’t have a lot of information about whether this variant is actually more dangerous than the variants that we’ve dealt with,” he said in an interview on CBC News Network.

Still, he said it was “better to be safe than sorry” and take precautions. But he said that until there was more information, it was not necessary to radically change behaviour, so long as you are vaccinated and otherwise acting in accordance with public health guidance.

“The stuff that worked before should work now.”

WHO urges countries to keep borders open

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement on Sunday summarizing what it knows about the variant. It said it is studying whether the variant is more transmissible than those currently spreading, such as delta, as well as whether omicron increases the risk of reinfection, as suggested by “preliminary evidence.”

The idea of travel bans in response to new variants has long been criticized by some as an ineffective measure at stopping the spread of the virus. South Africa has said the travel measures are “unjustified.”

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, said instituting travel bans targeted at southern Africa “attacks global solidarity.”

“COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions,” Moeti said.

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live that aired prior to the government announcement on Sunday, WHO special adviser Dr. Peter Singer said it “wouldn’t be a surprise” if the variant was in Canada.

He said the United Nations agency believes travel restrictions should be “risk-based and time-limited,” part of a comprehensive package, rather than the only measure taken to mitigate the risk of a new variant.

“They’re definitely not a silver bullet,” he said. Singer argued the international community should not create situations that disincentive countries from being transparent about new variants.

Singer said the most important things Canadians can do to protect themselves are the same as they have been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: get vaccinated and follow public health measures.

“This is a call for individuals to raise their guard. There are things individuals can do which help with any variant or any version of this virus, including omicron.”

He urged Canada and other countries to redouble their efforts to provide resources to the global vaccination campaign, saying that’s the best way to stop the spread of omicron and potential future variants.

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Canada finds first cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant in Ontario. Here’s what we know – Globalnews.ca

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Canada has detected its first two cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

A statement from Ontario’s Ministry of Health confirmed that cases of the variant, recently declared as the novel coronavirus’ fifth variant of concern by the WHO, have been identified in Ontario.

“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria. Ottawa Public Health is conducting case and contact management and the patients are in isolation,” read the statement Sunday.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges'



2:06
COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges


COVID-19: Doctors encourage vaccination as Omicron variant emerges

Read more:
Netherlands, Australia confirm cases of Omicron COVID-19 variant

“In addition to the measures recently announced, we continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travellers irrespective of where they’re coming from to further protect against the spread of this new variant.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore is set to hold a press conference on the variant’s discovery Monday morning, according to the statement.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos also confirmed Canada’s first two cases in a statement Sunday evening, and said that he was working with the province’s public health officials to contact trace the cases.

“As the monitoring and testing continues with provinces and territories, it is expected that other cases of this variant will be found in Canada,” read Duclos’ statement.


Click to play video: 'Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern'



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Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern


Staying ahead of a new COVID variant of concern

“I know that this new variant may seem concerning, but I want to remind Canadians that vaccination, in combination with public health and individual protective measures, is working to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and its variants in our communities.”

South African scientists first identified the heavily mutated variant earlier this week after an exponential surge in cases, prompting a host of nations — including Canada — to impose new travel restrictions on a wide swathe of southern African countries.

Public health experts and officials were alarmed by the variant’s high number of mutations — with preliminary data showing at first an increased potential for transmissibility, a reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased reinfection.

Other experts were quick to point out South Africa’s low rates of vaccination, which currently sit at under 30 per cent of the total population, as well as a lack of evidence suggesting the variant is deadlier than the current dominant strains of the virus.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant'



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COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant


COVID-19: South African president “deeply disappointed” by travel restrictions due to Omicron variant

Canadian public health officials previously said that getting vaccinated was still the best way of preventing the most severe outcomes from contracting COVID-19, and that there was no definitive evidence yet of its ability to completely circumvent the protection offered by the inoculations.

Canada’s Chief Public Officer Dr. Theresa Tam also confirmed the detection of the new variant, and said that Canada has a “robust monitoring” system in place to detect genetic changes in the virus or new variants of concern, such as the Omicron.

“Last Friday, Canada announced additional travel measures for all travellers coming into Canada from the South African region. It is not unexpected that additional cases of this variant will be discovered in Canada,” read Tam’s statement.

A handful of vaccine makers have recently announced that they were also developing or examining ways to enhance or create new versions of their shots to combat Omicron.

The most recent was that of Moderna, whose chief medical officer Dr. Paul Burton told BBC that a new vaccine could be produced by “early 2022” if it was necessary.

Read more:
Will COVID-19 booster shots protect against the Omicron variant? Experts undecided

“The remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, Moderna platform, is we can move very fast,” he said, noting that the company started work on an Omicron vaccine on Thursday.

Canada’s vaccination rates also stand among the highest in the world, with nearly 80 per cent of the country’s eligible population already vaccinated against COVID-19.


Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says'



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COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says


COVID-19: Vaccine against Omicron variant could be ready by early 2022, Moderna says

Public health experts told Global News earlier on Friday shortly before Canada’s announcement of new travel restrictions that they would not be surprised if the variant was “already here” and spreading within Canada’s borders.

On Sunday, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia became the latest countries alongside Canada to discover the new variant among their cases.

The variant has already been found in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong, the U.K., Germany and Italy.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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