TORONTO / ISLAMABAD —
Canada’s immigration minister said today the country has now helped more than 140 Afghans make their way overland to Pakistan, one of the few routes that is open to those who want to leave the country and have special Canadian VISAs.
A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino added that these refugees will be on their way to Canada within “days or weeks.”
The Khyber Pass, a mountain pass on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, is currently a jammed jumble of trucks, people, goods, Pakistani soldiers and now Taliban gunmen.
Until a few weeks ago, it was the Afghan army that controlled their side of the border, but now it’s Taliban fighters giving the orders.
Under the white flag of the Taliban, border guards from both countries stand just steps apart, controlling the mass of trucks going back and forth, as well as the crush of Afghans desperate to leave.
A Taliban fighter said that those who have a VISA can leave or come whenever they want, but most Afghans waiting in line will be turned back as only those with travel documents for another country will make it across.
After hours on the road to make it this far, there is an excruciating wait to get that previous approval to pass from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
Paperwork needs to be exact, and it’s all been complicated by testing for COVID-19.
A family of eight who left Kabul in the middle of the night, hauling luggage with Canadian flags on them, told CTV News that getting through the border was difficult.
“It took a long time,” the father said. “There were loads of people around here.”
They had left Afghanistan exactly a month since Kabul fell.
“We go to Islamabad to get the processing done, and then we’re going to rock and roll,” he said.
According to the minister’s office, most of the refugees travelling overland through Pakistan are Afghans who aided Canada’s military in the 2000s and fear retribution from the Taliban.
Around 3,700 people were evacuated to Canada before the U.S. withdrawal of troops at the end of August. The federal government has said they will resettle 20,000 Afghans who are forced to flee.
Ten members of another family accepted by Canada also made it across the border to Pakistan today, but hit a last minute snag when two of them tested positive for COVID-19 and will spend the next five days in quarantine.
One more roadblock on the road to Canada.
With files from the Canadian Press and CTVNews.ca’s Alexandra Mae Jones
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca
Ontario and New Brunswick rolled out vaccine passport systems on Wednesday that require people who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine to show proof of vaccination before entering non-essential indoor spaces.
The programs require people who are eligible for the vaccines to show proof of vaccination at non-essential businesses where large numbers of people gather, including dine-in restaurants, gyms, sports events and clubs.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, urged people to be patient as workers and businesses adjust to the new requirement. Moore said he hopes the new system will help boost vaccination rates — particularly among 20- to 39-year-olds, who currently have the highest rate of infection in Ontario.
Proof-of-vaccination systems are becoming more common across Canada, as governments work to boost vaccination rates amid increasing COVID-19 numbers. However, the systems are not without controversy — some view them as an infringement on individual rights, others argue that the systems put undue burdens on businesses that have already been hit hard by pandemic closures and ever-changing regulations.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford acknowledged the divisions around vaccine mandates at a news conference on Wednesday, but he said the province can’t afford to shut down again or see another sudden surge in cases.
The vaccine certificate system is a temporary and exceptional measure, Ford said, as he again urged people to be patient as businesses adapt.
Ford said the province would not use the program for “one day longer” than needed.
But when asked later at the news conference about what metrics he would use to determine when the vaccine passport requirements would be lifted, he didn’t offer specifics. The premier instead said the decision, when it came, would be made based on advice from the chief medical officer of health and the province’s science table.
Ontario on Wednesday reported 463 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths.
187 people are in ICU due to <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVID19</a>. 178 are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and nine are fully vaccinated.
The systems put in place by officials in Ontario and New Brunswick allow for medical exemptions for people with documentation from their health-care provider.
However, experts in New Brunswick tell CBC that medical exemptions are rare because there’s little to no reason people physically can’t get vaccinated.
In announcing New Brunswick’s new rules last week, Premier Blaine Higgs said the province’s original target of having 75 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated is no longer enough with the new highly transmissible variants. The goal is now 90 per cent.
Also starting Wednesday, New Brunswickers are once again required to wear a mask in all indoor public spaces.
The province reported 76 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a new record high for daily cases. It also reported one additional death. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell has said the province is on a trajectory to have 100 new cases confirmed per day, every day.
–From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6:45 p.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of Wednesday evening, more than 229.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.7 million.
In Europe, Germany will stop sick pay for unvaccinated people who have to go into quarantine because of COVID-19. Previously, Germans could claim for income lost due to having to go into quarantine after returning from abroad or coming into contact with a positive case.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said the move was a matter of “fairness,” arguing that by the time the new rule comes into force on Nov. 1, everyone who wants a vaccine will have had an opportunity to get one. Those who choose not to “will need to bear responsibility for this then, including the financial costs,” he said.
Germany has fully vaccinated 63.4 per cent of its population. The government has said it wants to achieve a vaccination rate of 75 per cent to prevent a sharp rise in cases during the winter months.
In the Asia-Pacific region, officials in the northeast China city of Harbin say national level health officials have been sent to the city to deal with what may be a coronavirus outbreak. The city of 9.5 million people reported three infection cases on Wednesday, a day after discovering a first case of community transmission.
After the initial finding, authorities started mass testing and closed schools. The city also ordered businesses such as mahjong parlours, cinemas and gyms to shut. City authorities say residents must display a negative virus test to be able to leave for only essential travel. Otherwise, people are being told to stay home.
In the Middle East, as coronavirus infections plummet and vaccinations accelerate in the United Arab Emirates, authorities have loosened a long-standing face mask mandate.
The Gulf Arab sheikhdom said Wednesday that residents no longer need to wear masks while exercising outdoors or visiting beaches and pools in the country. Those who receive medical or beauty treatments may also forgo the mask. However, face masks will still be required in indoor spaces such as shopping malls and public transportation.
In the Americas, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, just back from the United Nations, isolated himself at home on Wednesday and cancelled a trip after his health minister tested positive for COVID-19 and had to stay in quarantine in New York.
Bolsonaro defied UN rules that asked all those attending the assembly be inoculated against the coronavirus and was the only member of his entourage in New York who has not been vaccinated. Before travelling to the United States, he said he believed his antibody count from a bout with COVID-19 protected him better than a vaccine.
Meanwhile, United Airlines officials said 97 per cent of its U.S. employees are fully vaccinated, with less than a week to go before United employees face a deadline to get the shots or get fired. The Chicago-based airline has 67,000 U.S. employees.
In Africa, officials with the World Health Organization’s Africa region said this week that 14 countries on the continent had reached a goal of fully vaccinating 10 per cent of their populations by the end of September. But the same health officials noted that a “crippling vaccine supply shortage” remains a major issue for countries across Africa.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:45 p.m. ET
Evolution of Canada as a Modern Payments Leader
With Silicon Valley taking most of the tech headlines from the North American continent, Japan being regularly publicized for its leaps in robotic technologies, and the UAE constantly investing in the latest tech, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many forget about Canada as a leader in the world.
However, just because Canada doesn’t command international headlines doesn’t mean that the country hasn’t proven to be incredibly tech-savvy, especially in the realms of payments and money. As a developed market, Canada has long boasted one of the highest credit card penetration rates in the world, at 83 percent (17 percent higher than the United States).
This is the start of a trend that will likely see Canada become the example of how payments around the world will take place, especially as it’s reported that the country will likely be the first to banish banknotes. Already, over 80 percent of Canadian bank transactions are made digitally, with there being many solutions available to the population. Yet, there’s more to come from the world-leading market in modern payments.
Rapid adoption of innovative cashless payment services
While VISA, MasterCard, and American Express still form the foundations of much of Canada’s payments preferences, eWallet and mobile payment solutions have become incredibly prevalent. Both PayPal and Apple Pay boast a strong customer base across the country, with a 2019 survey indicating that over 20 percent of Canadians had the PayPal app, with over 15 percent installing the Apple Pay app.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that, due to the influx of these once-termed ‘alternative’ payment methods, new industries have quickly embraced them to appeal to Canadians. This isn’t anywhere more apparent than with the online casino industry, with the very best accepting PayPal as well as Skrill, Neteller, Trustly, and the two card providers. By offering these safe and popular methods, players are happy to try out thousands of online games.
PayPal looks to be positioning itself as the leader of a cashless Canada, and yet it’ll be expanding its offering even further soon. In September 2021, PayPal paid US$2.7 billion to acquire Japanese online payments firm Paidy, which specializes in buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) and payments without credit cards. This could further enhance its appeal to the Canadian population.
Growing into an ever-more digital space for money
Despite the rate of adoption of the newer or tech-savvy payment methods among customers, many still experience payment friction. It was found that over half of all Canadians have experienced a vendor not accepting their preferred payment method or there being a limit on the amount that can be transferred with any one purchase. This is why PayPal’s entry into BNPL could enhance its scope in Canada.
The BNPL market is tipped to be worth nearly US$4 trillion by the end of this decade, making it a powerhouse option in eCommerce. It will certainly become popular in less-developed markets, where people want more expensive goods than they can afford outright. However, it also has its place in a market like Canada, which will make all tiers of purchase more accessible to all, particularly if the PayPal rollout gains traction.
Another digital area of finance that Canada is seen to be particularly smitten with is that of cryptocurrencies. The government has created a remarkably crypto-friendly regulatory landscape, helping all kinds of coins to know where they stand, appeal to Canadians, and be used across the country. It’s said that around 1.2 million people (3.2 percent of the population) own cryptocurrencies in Canada already.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Canada is tipped to become the first cashless nation in the world, particularly with the adoption rate of eWallets and the embrace of even more modern solutions.
Alberta province replaces health minister
The premier Alberta province replaced his health minister in a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday, as a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases swamped the healthcare system and the government came under fire for mishandling the pandemic.
Hospitals in Canada‘s western oil-producing province are buckling under a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. There are a record number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care, and Alberta has cancelled all non-elective surgeries and discussed transferring patients to other provinces.
United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Kenney and Shandro both face criticism for loosening public health measures much faster than other provinces earlier this year and delaying proof of vaccination requirements as cases started to rise.
“This cabinet shuffle is once again Jason Kenney refusing to take responsibility for his actions and his decisions,” independent lawmaker Drew Barnes, a member of the legislative assembly, told Reuters. “The best thing he could do is resign.”
Barnes was thrown out of the UCP caucus in May for publicly calling for Kenney’s resignation.
Alberta is a conservative stronghold but support for the federal party led by Erin O’Toole slipped in Monday’s election, which some Conservatives blamed on dissatisfaction with Kenney.
On Tuesday the province wrote to the federal government formally requesting more critical care staff and for help transporting patients out of Alberta.
(Reporting by Nia Williams; editing by Barbara Lewis and Sonya Hepinstall)
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