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Air travelers to U.S. set to face tougher COVID-19 testing

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The U.S. is moving to require that all air travelers entering the country show a negative COVID-19 test performed within one day of departure in response to concerns about a new coronavirus variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Tuesday.

Currently, vaccinated international air travelers can present a negative test result obtained within three days from their point of departure. Nearly all foreign nationals must be vaccinated to enter the United States. Unvaccinated travelers currently must get a negative COVID-19 test within one day of arrival.

The new one-day testing requirement would apply equally to U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals.

Reuters reported earlier that a draft proposal was circulating among government agencies for the stricter testing requirement.

A CDC spokeswoman confirmed the agency is working to modify its global testing rules for travel “as we learn more about the Omicron variant; a revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States.”

The administration is also considering whether to require air travelers to get another COVID-19 test within three to five days after arrival in the United States, officials said.

The CDC did not confirm that, but noted it continues to recommend all “travelers should get a COVID-19 viral test 3-5 days after arrival” and “post-travel quarantine for any unvaccinated travelers.”

The stricter rules could be announced Thursday, but it was not clear when they might take effect.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the agency “is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including pre-departure testing closer to the time of flight and considerations around additional post-arrival testing and self-quarantines.”

On Monday, the White House barred nearly all foreign nationals who have recently been in South Africa and seven other southern African countries over concerns about the Omicron variant.

A White House official said earlier Tuesday the administration is evaluating COVID-19 measures “including considering more stringent testing requirements for international travel.”

On Tuesday, the CDC advised Americans against travel to Niger, Papua New Guinea, Poland, and Trinidad and Tobago, citing COVID-19 concerns.

The CDC now lists about 80 foreign destinations as having “Level Four,” its highest level of COVID-19 transmission, and discourages Americans from traveling to those destinations.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Sandra Maler, Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler)

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COVID-19: Go-Vaxx mobile vaccination clinic to return to Haliburton County with 3 stops – Globalnews.ca

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Ontario’s GO-VAXX mobile vaccination clinic is making three stops in Haliburton County in the coming weeks, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit announced Wednesday.

The retrofitted GO bus will provide first, second and boosters doses of COVID-19 vaccinations to any eligible residents, including doses for children ages 5-11. Moderna will be provided to individuals 30 and older, unless they have a documented allergy to Moderna.

Read more:

Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill not a replacement for COVID-19 vaccine, officials say

All appointments must be booked in advance through the Provincial Booking System or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. Appointments can be booked starting at 8 a.m. the day before the clinic.

Clinics will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.:

  • Saturday, Jan. 29 : A.J. LaRue Arena, 728 Mountain St., in Haliburton
  • Saturday, Feb. 5: Lloyd Watson Community Centre, 2249 Loop Rd., in Wilberforce
  • Saturday Feb. 12: A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton

“Being fully vaccinated with a booster dose has proven to be effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization against the Omicron variant,” said Doreen Boville, health promoter with the health unit. “To ensure anyone needing a vaccine can get one, appointments are necessary for a smooth rollout.”

Individuals are asked to bring their Ontario health card. If you do not have a health card or your health card is expired, bring another form of government photo ID such as a driver’s license, passport, Status card, or birth certificate.

The health unit has appointments available at COVID-19 vaccination clinics being held throughout the region. A list of dates and times is available on the health unit’s www.hkpr.on.ca. Residents are also encouraged to check with local pharmacies or their primary health care providers for more opportunities to get vaccinated.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the health unit reported 822 active cases within its jurisdiction including 35 in Haliburton County.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Prior COVID-19 infection offered protection against Delta variant, but vaccines still best shield against the virus, study says – The Globe and Mail

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People who had previously been infected with COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were vaccinated alone, suggesting that natural immunity was a more potent shield than vaccines against that variant, California and New York health officials reported on Wednesday.

Protection against Delta was highest, however, among people who were both vaccinated and had survived a previous COVID infection, and lowest among those who had never been infected or vaccinated, the study found.

Nevertheless, vaccination remains the safest strategy against COVID-19, according to the report published in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The results do not apply to the Omicron variant of the virus, which now accounts for 99.5 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

“The evidence in this report does not change our vaccination recommendations,” Dr. Ben Silk of the CDC and one of the study’s authors told a media briefing.

“We know that vaccination is still the safest way to protect yourself against COVID-19,” he said.

For the study, health officials in California and New York gathered data from May through November, which included the period when the Delta variant was dominant.

It showed that people who survived a previous infection had lower rates of COVID-19 than people who were vaccinated alone.

That represented a change from the period when the Alpha variant was dominant, Silk told the briefing.

“Before the Delta variant, COVID-19 vaccination resulted in better protection against a subsequent infection than surviving a previous infection,” he said.

In the summer and fall of 2021, however, when Delta became the predominant circulating iteration of the virus in the United States, “surviving a previous infection now provided greater protection against the subsequent infection than vaccination,” he said.

But acquiring immunity through natural infection carries significant risks. According to the study, by November 30, 2021, roughly 130,781 residents of California and New York had died from COVID-19.

The analysis did not include information on the severity of initial infection, nor does it account for the full range of illness caused by prior infection.

One important limitation to the study was that it ended before administration of vaccine booster doses was widespread.

Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health, said in an email that the study “clearly shows” that vaccines provide the safest protection against COVID-19 and they offer added protection for those with prior infections.

“Outside of this study, recent data on the highly contagious Omicron variant shows that getting a booster provides significant additional protection against infection, hospitalization and death,” Pan said.

Silk said the CDC is studying the impact of vaccination, boosters and prior infection during the Omicron surge and expects to issue further reports when that data becomes available.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

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Ontario sees ‘glimmers of hope’ over COVID, challenges remain

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The Canadian province of Ontario is starting to see “glimmers of hope” as the rate of new hospitalisations caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus slows, but challenges remain, health minister Christine Elliott said on Wednesday.

Elliott’s comments were the latest from officials in Ontario and Quebec – which together account for more than 60% of Canada’s population – to suggest that the worst of the Omicron wave might soon be over.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford told a radio station on Tuesday that the province would make a positive announcement this week about removing COVID-19 related restrictions imposed last month.

“We’re starting to see glimmers of hope … beginning to see signs of stabilisation,” Elliott told a briefing, adding that a peak in new hospitalisations would follow a peak in new infections this month.

“But I do want to be clear, February will continue to pose challenges, especially for our hospitals as people continue to require care for COVID-19.”

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, at a separate briefing, also spoke about pressure on the healthcare system. Duclos repeated the need for more people to get vaccinated, especially children aged between 5 and 12.

“Though the risk of hospitalization is lower for Omicron, the sheer volume of cases will likely increase hospital admissions,” Duclos said.

The Pacific province of British Columbia, citing concerns for its hospitals, extended gathering restrictions until mid-February on Tuesday.

 

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, editing by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Grant McCool)

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