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As U.S. prepares to reopen border, some urge Canada to relax testing requirement – CBC.ca

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This item is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians. 

What’s new

The U.S. is about to reopen its land border with Canada to non-essential travel. And it won’t require visitors to show a negative COVID-19 test; proof of vaccination will suffice.

Cue the calls for Canada to apply the same standard.

Members of the U.S. Congress are expected to send letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of Parliament asking Canada to drop the testing requirement for vaccinated travellers.

The hassle of getting tested will discourage people from taking advantage of the restored right to cross-border travel, said one member of Congress.

New York Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat, said proof of vaccination should be enough.

“Testing is redundant,” he said Wednesday, one day after the U.S. confirmed it will reopen the border early next month. 

“It will lead to a lot of Canadians that will be reluctant to come into the United States … There’s a cost associated with that. It’s also an additional administrative step that I think is unnecessary.”

What’s the context

These calls for ending test requirements have one key goal: attracting more Canadian travellers. Same-day trips represent a huge percentage of Canadian travel to the United States.

According to data from Statistics Canada, day trips comprised nearly half of all Canadian travel to the U.S. in 2019 — and two-thirds of trips taken by car.

The current Canadian testing requirements make that difficult.

To enter Canada, recreational travellers need to provide evidence of a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of entry. It can’t be a rapid antigen test, but rather must be a molecular test.

It takes one to two days to get those results at a leading U.S. pharmacy chain and can cost $139 US per sample. Canadian citizens can present a negative test performed in Canada, as long as it’s no more than 72 hours old when they return to the country.

The testing hurdle is still an issue for border communities most reliant on day travel, such as Buffalo, N.Y., for example, which Higgins represents in Congress.  

WATCH | Congressman Brian Higgins says entry rules for Canadians who received mixed COVID-19 vaccines are coming:

U.S. lawmaker says guidance on mixed vaccines could come soon

13 hours ago

The U.S. will soon allow fully vaccinated Canadians to cross the land border, but it has yet to issue guidance on mixed vaccines. Congressman Brian Higgins says he expects the White House to clarify the issue in the coming days. 7:19

Point Roberts, Wash., is another striking case.

The lack of same-day travel has devastated that community’s economy. The town relies on people from the Vancouver area visiting the seashore, eating at a restaurant and picking up some groceries or gas before returning to Canada.

Brian Calder, the head of the local chamber of commerce, says he’s worried the new travel rules won’t mean much unless Canada relaxes its rules.

The tiny community has only two testing clinics per week, Calder said. It takes more than a day and costs $150 US to get the results.

“[Canadians] aren’t going to come down [with these rules],” he told CBC News.

What’s next

Recreational travel into the U.S. by land will resume next month, the White House has announced.

Travellers will need to have proof of vaccination, but a White House official said: “No, there will not be a testing requirement.”

Higgins said members of Congress will be writing to Trudeau and other members of Parliament, urging them to adopt the more-lenient U.S. rule on testing.

Entering Canada requires a molecular COVID-19 test that costs more than $100 US and often takes more than a day to get. Critics in the U.S. say that makes many trips across the land border impossible. (David Ryder/Reuters)

He said that authorities are eroding their own message that vaccines work well by instituting additional requirements beyond vaccination.

Will Canada heed calls to relax the testing requirement?

Ottawa isn’t saying anything more about that for now.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair noted on Wednesday that the federal government accepts negative PCR tests that are up to 72 hours old for incoming travellers. That rule means that Canadians making day trips to the U.S. can take their COVID-19 test before leaving and use it when they re-enter, rather than relying on a private test in the U.S.

WATCH | Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says Canada hopes to have an answer from the U.S. on mixed doses and crossing the border before the end of this month:

U.S. to open land border for fully vaccinated Canadians in early November

13 hours ago

Will Canadians with mixed vaccine doses also be able to cross into the U.S. via land crossing next month? “I don’t want to get ahead of the advice the CDC will give to the American government,” says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, “…we’re hoping to have that information for Canadians before the end of this month”. 9:12

“If [Canadians] want to go over and do some shopping, it will be relatively straightforward for them to return to Canada,” Blair told CBC’s Power & Politics.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said longer-term rules haven’t been finalized yet. During a trip to Washington on Wednesday, she repeated the same reply when asked by reporters about the test rules in French and English.

“We are working to clarify and finalize all the details with our American partners,” Freeland said.

WATCH | Mayor of Windsor, Ont., reacts to land border reopening:

Mayor of Windsor, Ont., reacts to land border reopening

11 hours ago

Mayor of Windsor, Ont., Drew Dilkens joins Power & Politics to discuss the U.S. land border reopening to fully vaccinated Canadians next month, what the requirements will be and whether the U.S. will recognize a mixed-dose vaccine schedule. 7:37

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Bitcoin hovers near 6-month high on ETF hopes, inflation worries

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Bitcoin hovered near a six-month high early on Monday on hopes that U.S. regulators would soon allow cryptocurrency exchange-traded funds (ETF) to trade, while global inflation worries also provided some support.

Bitcoin last stood at $62,359, near Friday’s six-month high of $62,944 and not far from its all-time high of $64,895 hit in April.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is set to allow the first American bitcoin futures ETF to begin trading this week, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, a move likely to lead to wider investment in digital assets.

Cryptocurrency players expect the approval of the first U.S. bitcoin ETF to trigger an influx of money from institutional players who cannot invest in digital coins at the moment.

Rising inflation worries also increased appetite for bitcoin, which is in limited supply, in contrast to the ample amount of currencies issued by central banks in recent years as monetary authorities printed money to stimulate their economies.

But some analysts noted that, after the recent rally, investors may sell bitcoin on the ETF news.

“The news of a suite of futures-tracking ETFs is not new to those following the space closely, and to many this is a step forward but not the game-changer that some are sensing,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone in Melbourne, Australia.

“We’ve been excited by a spot ETF before, and this may need more work on the regulation front.”

 

(Reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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China’s plunging construction starts reminiscent of 2015 downturn

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China’s September new  construction starts slumped for a sixth straight month, the longest spate of monthly declines since 2015, as cash-strapped developers put a pause on projects in the wake of tighter regulations on borrowing.

New construction starts in September fell 13.54% from a year earlier, the third month of double-digit declines, according to Reuters calculations based on January-September data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday.

That marks the longest downtrend since declines in March-August 2015, the last property malaise.

When the sector recovered in 2016 after authorities loosened their grip on purchases and development, tens of thousands of real estate firms borrowed heavily to build homes.

But as regulations tightened again this year, many of them have started to face a liquidity crunch, which was then worsened by sharply weaker demand due to tighter restrictions on speculative purchases.

Property sales by floor area dropped 15.8% in September, down for a third month, according to Reuters calculations based on the statistics bureau’s data.

The slowdown in the sector was also underscored by a 3.5% drop in property investments by developers in September, the first monthly decline since January-February last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in China.

“All the data are poor,” said Zhang Dawei, chief analyst with property agency Centaline.

“Financing is hard, sales are tough, so of course, there has been no enthusiasm to build. For the first time in history, developers are encountering two blockages – blockages in sales and blockages in financing.”

The potential collapse of highly indebted real estate firms such as China Evergrande Group have raised concerns about systemic risks to the broader economy. The real estate sector accounts for a quarter of China’s gross domestic product.

Authorities will try to prevent problems at Evergrande from spreading to other real estate companies to avoid broader systemic risk, Yi Gang, governor of China’s central bank, said on Sunday.

On Friday, a central bank official said the spillover effect of Evergrande’s debt problems on the banking system was “controllable.”

“There is a likelihood that housing policies may loosen in the fourth quarter, and that would ease the pessimism in the property transaction data,” said Yan Yuejin, director of Shanghai-based E-house China Research and Development Institution.

On Friday, representatives from 10 Chinese Property Companies met government regulators to ask for an “appropriate loosening” on policy restrictions, financial news outlet Yicai reported.

China’s real estate shares have fallen 22% so far this year. On Monday, they were down 2.6% as of 0300 GMT.

In the first nine months, property investment rose 8.8% from a year earlier, slowing from 10.9% growth seen in January-August.

Funds raised by China’s property developers grew 11.1%, slower than the 14.8% rise seen in the first eight months.

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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Saks Fifth Avenue ecommerce unit aims for IPO at $6 billion valuation – WSJ

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The ecommerce business of luxury department store  Saks OFF 5TH is preparing for an initial public offering and targeting a $6 billion valuation, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing sources.

The company is interviewing potential underwriters this week for an  IPO that could take place in the first half of next year, according to the report.

 

(Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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