The sky cleared across some parts of Canada early Wednesday and conditions were expected to improve further as the day progressed, amid warnings that the wildfire-induced haze will likely return before long.
“I think … the story, for the rest of the summer into August, is ‘smoke, smoke, smoke from coast to coast,'” Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips told CTV’s Your Morning.
There were no air quality alerts in place for southern Quebec or southern Ontario as of 9:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday – a starkly different picture than 24 hours earlier, when most inhabitants of both regions were warned of potentially dangerous smoke and haze.
In the East, all of New Brunswick remained under an air quality advisory, with Environment Canada reporting that smoke from the wildfires in northern Ontario should leave the area later Wednesday.
The situation was very different in the West – though there, too, air quality was generally a little bit better than it was on Tuesday. Advisories remained in place for parts of northwestern Ontario, most of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the Fort Chipewyan area in northeastern Alberta, and Thebacha Region in the Northwest Territories. In B.C., the air quality advisory expanded to include more of the province’s interior, including the Fraser Canyon.
“There’s still a huge area that is affected by this,” Phillips said.
Environment Canada’s Air Quality Health Index listed Winnipeg as the only major city in which air quality posed a high risk to human health as of 9:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday. That category had included Edmonton, Regina, Montreal and Quebec City 24 hours earlier, while Winnipeg was at that time listed under very high risk.
The poor air quality was caused by drifting smoke from forest fires in the West and Ontario. The arrival of southerly winds had done much to improve the air quality situation, Phillips said, by pushing that smoke northward, away from major cities.
Meanwhile, parts of the North were under extreme heat warnings as a warm airmass brought unusually hot weather to some regions. Environment Canada was warning of daily highs just below 30 C for both Wednesday and Thursday in such communities as Old Crow, Yukon and the Northwest Territories’ Inuvik Region.
A typical late-July high in Old Crow is barely above 20 C; Wednesday’s forecast high of 28 C is higher than any temperature ever recorded in the community on any July 21.
The abnormal heat has also left Yukoners preparing for unprecedented flooding, as snowpacks are melting more quickly than normal under the stress of the sun. Sandbagging operations are underway along the Yukon River in Whitehorse, and evacuation orders have been issued for a handful of low-lying properties elsewhere in the territory.
Projections from Yukon Energy show that by August, water levels in the Southern Lakes Region will be 20 to 80 centimetres above where they were in 2007, which is the record high-water mark.
EXPECT MORE HEAT, DROUGHTS AND SMOKE
In most parts of Canada where smoke and haze continued to fill the sky, Environment Canada forecasts that conditions should clear by Thursday.
Phillips warned, however, that as long as fires continue to burn – there were nearly 900 of them across the country, as of Tuesday night – a change in weather could bring the smoky conditions right back.
“There may be a reprieve in one day, or two days – but hey, it’s coming back. You can’t extinguish those fires overnight,” he said.
More concerning, Phillips said, is how many fires are burning so early in the year. Wildfire activity in Canada tends to peak later in the summer – and with Environment Canada’s forecast showing warmer-than-normal temperatures for the rest of July and into August, conditions could be ripe for more fires to be sparked.
“My sense is [that] this is a story that is going to carry on, and we could see it maybe into September,” Phillips said.
Of course, heat alone does not cause wildfires or create the conditions for them to spread. There’s also the matter of moisture. A forest that has regularly been rained on doesn’t burn nearly as easily as one that hasn’t had a drop to drink in weeks.
That’s why the wildfire season in Western Canada has gotten off to such a busy start: lengthy spring drought left forests tinder-dry. When rain finally arrived, it also brought lightning – the spark that was needed to start the blazes.
The combination of heat and drought has had other consequences, too, including leaving Prairie farmers facing a difficult growing season.
“It’s deteriorating here rather quickly … almost to the point of having no production,” Brad Erb, a grain farmer in Oak Bluff, Man., told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.
Erb said that he has not seen a summer this dry in more than 30 years. Most of his canola crop has been ruined; he hopes there will be enough rain to salvage the corn and soybeans.
Some ranchers have even run out of feed for their cattle, unable to bale a sufficient amount of hay.
“The situation there is pretty dire in terms of getting feed and water to the animals,” Erb said.
With files from The Canadian Press
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world Tuesday – CBC.ca
Chinese authorities have announced mass coronavirus testing in Wuhan as an unusually wide series of COVID-19 outbreaks reached the city where the disease was first detected in late 2019.
The provincial capital of 11 million people in central China is the latest city to undergo city-wide testing. Three cases were confirmed in Wuhan on Monday, its first non-imported cases in more than a year.
China has largely curbed COVID-19 at home after the initial outbreak that devastated Wuhan and spread globally. Since then, authorities have tamped down and controlled the disease whenever it pops up with quick lockdowns and mass testing.
The current outbreaks are still in the hundreds of cases in total but have spread much more widely than previous ones. Many of the cases have been identified as the highly contagious delta variant.
The National Health Commission said Tuesday that 90 new cases had been confirmed the previous day.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:05 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 198.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported, according to Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.2 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan will focus on hospitalizing patients who are seriously ill with COVID-19 and those at risk of becoming so while others isolate at home amid worries about a strained medical system as cases surge in Olympics host city Tokyo.
Pakistan’s top health official says his country for the first time has administered one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine across the country in the past 24 hours. The latest development comes days after Pakistan imposed a lockdown in the southern port city of Karachi and in other high-risk areas.
In the Americas, the U.S. states of Florida and Louisiana were at or near their highest hospitalization numbers of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, a trend driven by the still-spreading delta variant.
Nearly three out of four Americans above the age of 18 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disesae Control.
In Africa, Morocco will lengthen its night curfew as it tightens restrictions to counter a surge in infections.
In the Middle East, Iran on Monday reported 37,189 new cases of COVID-19 — a single-day high, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The country, which has been hit hard by several waves of the novel coronavirus, also saw 411 additional deaths.
In Europe, France’s overseas territory of Guadeloupe will to go into a new lockdown for at least three weeks.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted to get the travel industry moving again with a simple user-friendly system to allow for trips abroad without importing new virus variants.
–From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 6:55 a.m. ET
Canada fines travellers for fake vaccination and testing papers – BBC News
Canada has fined two travellers arriving from the US who, officials say, forged Covid-19 testing and vaccination documents.
Each was fined C$19,720 ($16,000, £11,500) after inspectors at the Toronto airport found their vaccine cards and proof of testing were fake.
It comes as Canada is set to ease travel restrictions on US visitors.
Around the world, nations are grappling with how to re-open their borders to travellers amid a virus surge.
According to a statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the two unnamed travellers had entered Canada from the US during the week of 18 July.
The Canada Border Services Agency, which inspects Covid travel documents for authenticity, determined that the duo had faked the documents that they had uploaded to the government’s ArriveCAN travel website.
“The Government of Canada will continue to investigate incidents reported and will not hesitate to take enforcement action where it is warranted to protect the health of Canadians from the further spread of Covid-19 and its variants of concern,” the agency said in a statement.
Canada did not identify the travellers or their itineraries. The health agency told Newsweek in a statement that they were Canadian citizens.
Canada loosened requirements for international travellers on 5 July. Anyone entering the country must provide proof of vaccination. The unvaccinated have to submit to multiple tests, and stay for three days in a government-run hotel before quarantining for 14 days.
Canada will begin letting vaccinated Americans enter the country starting on 9 August.
The US border with Canada and Mexico, however, remains closed to foreigners until 21 August.
Other countries are quickly amending their travel restrictions, depending on the rise or fall of new infections and vaccinations.
On Monday, the UK began allowing vaccinated Americans and Europeans to enter without undergoing quarantine.
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US Customs agents arrest Canadian woman attempting to smuggle drugs – CTV Toronto
A Canadian woman has been caught attempting to import a significant quantity of cocaine into the country, U.S. border agents report.
The suspect, who was driving a commercial truck loaded with watermelons and peppers, attempted to cross into Canada at the office in Sweetgrass, Mont. on July 29.
Upon further inspection of the truck, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers discovered a number of bags hidden among the cargo.
The substance inside the bags tested positive for cocaine, officials said. The total amount of drugs seized was 31.5 kilograms.
“Utilizing high-tech tools, our frontline CBP Officers used a combination of their training and experience to detect and seize 69.5 pounds of cocaine in the cargo environment,” said area port director Jason Greene, Sweetgrass Port of Entry, in a release.
“The ability to facilitate lawful trade and travel while sustaining a focus on enforcement, is critical to our border security mission.”
Charges are pending against the suspect, who has not been identified.
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