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African Union, U.S. see small window of opportunity to end Ethiopia fighting

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The African Union and the United States see a small window of opportunity to end fighting in Ethiopia, they said on Monday, as the United Nations warned that the risk of Ethiopia spiralling into a widening civil war is “only too real.”

The AU envoy for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and U.N. political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo both briefed the U.N. Security Council.

Speaking from Ethiopia, Obasanjo said that by the end of the week “we hope to have a program in hand that will indicate” how they can achieve humanitarian access and a withdrawal of troops that satisfies all the parties. The United Nations estimates 400,000 people in the northern region of Tigray are living in famine-like conditions following a year of war.

“All these leaders, here in Addis Ababa and in the north, agree individually that the differences between them are political and require a political solution through dialogue,” Obasanjo told the 15-member council, but stressed: “The window of opportunity we have is very little and that time is short.”

The U.S. State Department also said on Monday that Washington believes there is a small window to work with the AU to make progress on ending the conflict as U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, returned to Addis Ababa.

The African Union earlier on Monday held a closed-door meeting to discuss the crisis.

The conflict started in November 2020 when forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), seized military bases in Tigray. In response, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent more troops to the northern region. Thousands have been killed and more than 2 million have fled their homes.

Ethiopia’s U.N. Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie Amde told the U.N. Security Council: “Our route to a dialogue and political solution will not be straightforward or easy.”

“For now we’re focused on halting TPLF and rescuing and reaching our public that suffered immensely,” he said.

‘TIME TO PUT YOUR WEAPONS DOWN’

The war has intensified in recent weeks. Tigrayan forces and their allies are threatening to march on Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, while the government has declared a six-month state of emergency.

“It is time to put your weapons down,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said at the Security Council. “This war between angry, belligerent men – victimizing women and children – has to stop.”

The TPLF had dominated national politics for nearly three decades but lost influence when Abiy took office in 2018. The TPLF accused him of centralising power at the expense of regional states. Abiy denies this.

Obasanjo told the council he had met with Abiy, the leader of Ethiopia’s Oromiya region and travelled to Mekelle on Sunday to meet TPLF leaders. He plans to travel to the regions of Amhara and Afar on Tuesday, where the conflict has spread from neighbouring Tigray.

DiCarlo said the conflict had reached “disastrous proportions” and that incidents of hate speech and targeting of ethnic groups have “increased at an alarming rate. She told the U.N. Security Council: “What is certain is that the risk of Ethiopia descending into widening civil war is only too real.”

The Security Council on Friday called for an end to the fighting in Ethiopia and for talks on a lasting ceasefire as the body expressed deep concern in a rare statement about the expansion and intensification of military clashes.

 

(This story was refiled to correct typographical error in 13th paragraph)

 

(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; Additional reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Writing by Maggie Fick and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Richard Chang and Grant McCool)

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Holiday shopping in Canada: Supply chain issues, delivery deadlines – CTV News

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BARRIE —
Canada Post says it is adding additional staff and vehicles in anticipation of another busy holiday season amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson for Canada Post told CTVNews.ca in an email Saturday that the company “continues to ramp up for a busy peak holiday season as Canadians have become much more comfortable shopping online during the pandemic.”

The company said in 2020, during the two weeks ending on Christmas Eve, its employees delivered almost 20 million parcels to Canadians. A record 2.4 million of which were delivered on Dec. 21.

But, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and persistent global supply chain issues, should Canadians be worried about holiday package delivery delays?

Here’s a closer look at what’s going on.

GET HOLIDAY SHOPPING DONE EARLY

David Soberman is a professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

He told CTVNews.ca that ultimately, shipping companies like Canada Post are the “last link,” when it comes to the global supply chain and getting goods to consumers.

“Most of the problems in the supply chain are occurring at the retail level and further upstream,” he said during a telephone interview on Saturday.

Beyond ramping up their capacity to deal with an influx of packages during the holiday season, Soberman said there’s not much else shipping companies can do to mitigate these issues for consumers.

He said customers should make sure they check the estimated delivery date listed online by retailers, to ensure their holiday gifts will arrive on time.

However, Soberman cautioned that some specific, popular items might be especially hard to find this year.

“What someone’s going to do if they go into Canadian Tire and they can’t find something – they’re going to start to look on Amazon.ca, or they’ll maybe they’ll look on Walmart.ca,” he said. “And then they’ll start looking on other sites.”

He said if everyone looking for the same item does the same, “eventually you won’t be able to get it.”

“And that’s what’s going to happen with some of the more popular items – certain toys, certain board games, certain electronics, etc.,” he said.

Consumers should try to get their holiday shopping done as early as possible, Soberman said, and should have back-up gift ideas for their loved ones, in case the item they want is unavailable.

Soberman also pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying if new variants are detected in Canada, or the pandemic? worsens, some areas could see new lockdowns or restrictions, which could impede holiday shopping.

“The sooner you get your shopping done the better,” he said.

WHAT HAS CANADA POST SAID?

Canada Post said it encourages customers to “take the time and do their research online with retailers to understand the availability of certain items and ensure they aren’t disappointed.”

The company has also released a schedule for sending holiday cards and packages. The dates vary depending on what you are sending and where.

The deadline to send a package by regular mail to an address in Canada is Dec. 9, while customers have until Dec. 21 to ship priority packages within Canada.

The deadline to send a card nationally is Dec. 17.

The full details, including deadlines to send packages internationally can be found here.

Canada Post said the company is also taking several measures to keep up with the busy holiday season.

The company said it is hiring 4,200 additional seasonal staff across the country and is adding 1,400 more vehicles to its fleet.

Canada Post is also “leveraging new sortation capacity” recently added in Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Kitchener, Montreal and Moncton.

The company said it is also adding “temporary parcel pickup locations” in major urban centres and secondary markets to “ease congestion and lineups for holiday parcel pickup at some of our busier post offices.”

WHAT HAS UPS SAID?

In an email to CTVNews.ca, a spokesperson for UPS didn’t note any shipping delay concerns, but said the company’s “dedicated employees make UPS well-equipped to handle the challenges of the pandemic and the peak holiday season.”

The company said by the end of next year, it will have also added 49 new aircraft to its fleet since 2017, and said it will have added two million square feet of automated facilities by the end of the year. According to UPS, almost 90 per cent of its packages will flow through these automated facilities.

UPS said the investments in additional air and ground capacity and technology means it can process about 130,000 more pieces of mail per hour than last year.

CTVNews.ca also reached out to Amazon and FedEx to determine if Canadian customers can expect to see shipping delays, but did not hear back by time of publication.  

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Canada bans flights from South Africa and neighbouring countries – Canada Immigration News

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Published on November 27th, 2021 at 03:00am EST

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Sunset over Cape Town in South Africa.

Sunset over Cape Town in South Africa.

The Canadian government announced that it will limit travel to southern Africa, a region which has reported cases of a new COVID-19 variant of concern.

As of November 26, all foreign nationals who have travelled through the seven affected countries in the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter Canada. The affected nations include: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique .

Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to return home, but they will have to fly home indirectly, passing through a third country where they will also need to take a  molecular COVID-19 test.

Discover if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Canada’s health minister, Jean-Yves Duclos said people already in Canada who travelled in the region over the past two weeks should get a COVID-19 test and stay in isolation until they receive a negative test result.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the new measures will be in affect until at least Jan. 31, 2022.

The announcement comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) dubbed the new COVID-19 strain, also known as Omicron or B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern. So far, the Omicron variant has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, as well as in Israel, Belgium, and Hong Kong. It has not been found in Canada, according to Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam.

The transport minister encouraged Canadians who are unable to get home due to the restrictions to contact the emergency watch centre.

Discover if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

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Canada needs to make a tough call on boosters as a new variant emerges – CBC.ca

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This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


Despite a growing push to roll out COVID-19 vaccine boosters more widely in Canada, epidemiologists say there is currently no evidence of an urgent need for additional shots in the general population — due to the strong, ongoing protection two doses already provide.

But with the emergence of the potentially more infectious omicron variant, the holidays rapidly approaching and COVID-19 levels remaining elevated in much of the country, should Canada wait for more proof of waning immunity before expanding eligibility of boosters?

Or should we move quickly to offer up additional shots to fend off another potential surge as the U.S., the U.K. and Israel have done?

Some provinces and territories have already expanded access to boosters — including Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and Yukon — while others have taken a more cautious approach by only offering them to certain vulnerable groups and health-care workers.

But the current case for rolling out third shots to most Canadians while much of the world remains unvaccinated and new variants continue to emerge seems weak at best.

“There is currently no evidence of widespread decreasing protection over time against severe disease in the general Canadian population who have been vaccinated,” a spokesperson for the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) told CBC News. 

“NACI continues to actively review available evidence from Canada and other countries, and if needed, will update advice on booster doses as a preventive measure.”

The current case for rolling out third shots to most Canadians while much of the world remains unvaccinated and new variants continue to emerge seems weak at best. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

‘Don’t want to wait until it’s too late’

Experts are divided over the need to expand access to additional shots to more Canadians — or even to everyone over 18 — and the emergence of the omicron variant will likely only heat up the debate further until we know more about it.

“I understand that mounting pressure to give more and more doses,” said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, epidemiology lead at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, whose research prompted Canada’s decision to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccines

“But I cannot say based on the current evidence that there is a clear and present danger or need or indication for an additional dose for the general population of adults at this time.”

Skowronski said the latest data from B.C. and Quebec, released jointly as a recent preprint study that has yet to be peer reviewed, suggested mRNA vaccines were close to 95 per cent protective against hospitalization and over 80 per cent against any infection.

“Should we be attempting a preemptive strike to fend off a possible surge? Well, that kind of attitude is a slippery slope,” she said.

Rolling out boosters more widely is a “massive population-wide undertaking” that could set a bad precedent for future shots.

“We should only really make decisions ahead of the evidence if there is an urgent need to do so — otherwise we should be cautious in jumping the gun … and on what basis then do we make decisions about whether a fourth, or a fifth, or a sixth dose?”

WATCH | Growng push for Ontario to expand COVID-19 booster shot eligibility:

Calls mount for Ontario to expand COVID-19 booster shot eligibility

6 days ago

There are growing calls for Ontario to expand the eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots to include more people who are immunocompromised. It comes as Sen. Josée Forest-Niesing, who had an autoimmune disease, died shortly after being hospitalized with COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. 2:00

New data from Public Health Ontario shows just nine fully vaccinated people under the age of 60 have been admitted to ICU since the vaccine rollout began.

Researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in Toronto also found most fully vaccinated people in Ontario were still highly protected against both infection and severe COVID-19 eight months after their second dose.

ICES’s vaccine estimates showed that while protection against symptoms dropped to just over 80 per cent — and to more than 70 per cent when including asymptomatic infections — prevention of hospitalizations remained high at more than 90 per cent.

“So the question is, at eight months, is a vaccine effectiveness of 70-something per cent good enough? Or is that going to open the door to disaster?” said Dr. Jeff Kwong, an epidemiologist and senior scientist at ICES.

“We’re kind of in this precarious spot where we’re probably going to need boosters at some point, but whether we need them now is debatable — but you don’t want to wait until it’s too late.”

Canada is sitting on a massive stockpile of vaccines compared to other countries — with close to six million in the national inventory according to PHAC — while over one million doses have reportedly already gone to waste since our rollout began. (Aaron Favila/The Associated Press)

Millions of unused vaccine doses sitting in freezers

Canada is also sitting on a massive stockpile of vaccines compared to other countries — with close to six million in the national inventory according to PHAC — while over one million doses have reportedly already gone to waste since the rollout began.

“Right now, we should be offering boosters to everybody five months out of the second dose,” said Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa.

“There are millions going unused, and we’re at the point where we’re struggling to get that last 20 per cent of people to even accept their first dose. So for the rest of us that have two doses, let’s maximize our immunity.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, says it’s “well past time” to expand booster eligibility to Canadians over the age of 50 who are six months out from their second shot at the very least.

“It’s pretty fair to say that there is some degree of waning immunity against getting the infection, but most of the data we’ve seen demonstrates that two doses still provide significant protection against severe disease,” he said. 

“But there is still value in reducing infection as well — it really can reduce amplification of the virus in the community, and you certainly can prevent some severe disease especially in the older cohort.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch says it’s ‘well past time’ to expand booster eligibility to Canadians over the age of 50 who are six months out from their second shot at the very least. (Alberta Health Services)

The push for expanding boosters in Canada comes despite the World Health Organization‘s plea to wealthier countries to hit pause on widespread booster shots until at least 2022 in favour of vaccinating more of the unvaccinated world.

The omicron variant emerged in southern Africa, which has some of the lowest vaccination rates globally, highlighting a dire need for more doses on the continent.

But Bogoch says the two approaches don’t need to be mutually exclusive. 

“We can align with the WHO’s request for a moratorium on population-level booster vaccines until 2022 but also simultaneously use the vaccines that we have and act in a data-driven manner by providing third doses to the 50-plus crowd,” he said.

“It was time to do this several weeks ago — if not a month or two ago — because we are headed into fall and winter months, and we know cases are going to predictably rise at this time of year.”

Boosters won’t prevent global threat of variants 

Canada’s COVID-19 reproductive rate has been sitting precariously close to one for months, meaning a surge in cases due to an increase in indoor gatherings during colder weather could lead to exponential growth.

“We are all at the cusp of either growth or the decline in cases — we’re just there,” said Dr. Leyla Asadi, an infectious diseases physician at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

“And we are kidding ourselves if we think that there isn’t going to be a significant increase in contacts over the holidays. Of course, there will be, and of course, this will mostly be inside because we are living in Canada in the winter.”

Despite the increased risk during the next few months, experts say the emergence of a new variant of concern also further highlights the need to vaccinate people in lower-income countries who have had much less access to vaccines.

“Why do we have a stockpile of vaccines when much of the world does not have access to a first dose?” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University.

“The reality of the situation is Canada doesn’t make vaccines, and so, every dose that shows up on our soil is a dose that was not on someone else’s soil.”

A baby cries as her mother receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Diepsloot Township near Johannesburg on Oct. 21. (Denis Farrell/The Associated Press)

Canada has committed to donating 73 million more COVID-19 vaccines to the developing world, with four million doses sent to the WHO’s COVAX program earlier this month, but Chagla says giving low-risk Canadians another dose undermines that progress.

Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and a virologist at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Saskatoon, says that given the global threat of variants, it would be better for Canadians to wait for a variant-specific booster.

A booster tailored to the delta, omicron or other variants that emerge in the future would likely be more useful than a third shot of a vaccine aimed at the original Wuhan strain of the coronavirus.

“We should take some of the vaccines that might come in for boosters and donate those so that we’re dividing them up more evenly and not taking everything for Canada,” she said.

“That would be a much better strategy than bringing vaccines in for boosters, when it’s not clear if it’s going to help our current pandemic situation.”

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