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Border loophole? Canadian snowbirds shipping cars, RVs to U.S., then flying in – CTV News

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TORONTO —
The border might be closed, but that’s not stopping Canadian snowbirds from using what some call a loophole to get their cars, trailers and RVs down to sunny American beaches.

Transport companies have long offered trucking services for snowbirds to move vehicles across the border. This year, some are even offering seats on small chartered jets as part of that package. Cross-border air travel is still permitted, though discouraged by the federal government. One Quebec-based transporter is charging $500 for a direct flight to Plattsburgh, N.Y., where they’ll meet snowbirds with their vehicle.

Some are seeing the service as a clever loophole through pandemic travel restrictions. 

“How to bypass customs and go to Florida,” wrote one Facebook commenter in French on a post by Transport KMC, adding sun, airplane, beach and tropical drink emojis.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that travel restrictions in place at the Canada-U.S. land border would remain in place until at least Dec. 21, peak season for many snowbirds.The border remains open to commerce, meaning companies like Transport KMC can use their commercial licences to bring Canadian vehicles Stateside. In a survey of more than 3,000 sun-chasers across Canada conducted earlier this month, travel site SnowbirdAdvisor.ca found that over 30 per cent of respondents still planned to go away for some or all of the winter season.

The land border restrictions have meant good business for Ron Ohayon’s Toronto-based Snowbirds Auto Connection, which has been picking up new clientele this fall.

“We do have a whole bunch of new customers that normally used to drive their cars down, and now we’re trucking it down there for them and they’re flying in to Florida,” he told CTVNews.ca over the phone on Thursday.

But where they’re going and what they’re doing there isn’t any of Ohayon’s concern. He doesn’t ask or require customers to disclose a purpose for travel and doesn’t believe he has any right to inquire. As for COVID-19 safety protocols, his staff “sanitize everything,” wear masks and gloves, and complete digital paperwork with clients.

“People are going to go to Florida no matter what,” he said. “I know a lot of people are opting to still go. A lot of snowbirds are saying, ‘If I’m going to live in the house I might as well live in the house in the warm weather [rather than be] stuck here in the freezing cold.’”

Many of his customers are permanent residents in the U.S.; others are just shipping their cars back that they don’t need in Canada. Some are relocating for work, others for school. And indeed, many are vacationers, leaving Canada in October and returning in the spring.

“A lot of our snowbirds haven’t really seen snow in 30, 40 years,” he said, acknowledging that the businesses like his might be used as an evasion of pandemic protocols for Canadians chasing the sun.

“It is I guess, in a sense, a loophole, because technically you can fly to Buffalo, to Michigan, to Detroit, they’re not stopping you. You’re picking up your vehicle and moving down from there,” he said.

“It is a way of circumventing it, but that is something that the government’s got to deal with.”

A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency said in an email Thursday that they can only speak to the CBSA’s role as it relates to entry into Canada. U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed to CTVNews.ca that CBP officers at land borders determine whether a person’s reason for travel is “essential,” but did not comment on air travel.

“Travel for the sole purpose of visiting a personal property for recreation is not deemed essential under the temporary travel restrictions,” the statement read. 

Global Affairs Canada said in an email the agency “continues to advise against all non-essential travel outside Canada” and warned that should complications arise during travel outside the country, the Canadian government may be limited in its resources to help.

“If Canadians deem their travel essential and decide to leave Canada despite the advisories, note that the Government of Canada may have limited capacity to offer consular services,” the email read.

“Canadian travellers should be aware that — as the COVID-19 situation changes constantly — governments that have reopened their borders to tourists could impose strict travel restrictions suddenly if they experience an increase in cases.”

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Airbnb rolls out restrictions in Canada to prevent New Year's Eve parties – CBC.ca

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Airbnb says it has a plan to curb New Year’s Eve parties this year while Canada works to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, with the announcement coming not long after a short-term rental was the site of a 60-person party in Mississauga, Ont.

In addition to its ongoing ban on parties, Airbnb now says guests will need a history of positive reviews on its app to reserve an entire home for New Year’s Eve in Canada.

Airbnb is making an exception for one-night bookings made up to Tuesday, based on data that suggests bookings made before early December rarely involve parties.

Most guests and hosts “are quite responsible, but there’s always a couple people who try to skirt those rules,” said Nathan Rotman, senior manager of public policy at Airbnb.

“We want to make sure that people are both adhering to public health guidelines and following the policies that we’ve put in place and our hosts have put in place.”

Still, Rotman says there are plenty of good reasons why hosts might get bookings over the holidays, including people who might need to use rental suites for isolation purposes after returning to Canada. This new restriction, he says, is to target people who are ignoring company policies.

The app is loosening its standards from a similar policy on Halloween by allowing users with previous positive reviews to book a home for one night.

But Airbnb says it will put more stringent policies in place as the new year nears, by using technology that blocks certain kinds of last-minute bookings.

Airbnb’s announcement comes after Deputy Chief Marc Andrews of the Peel Regional Police said a short-term rental unit was the site of a 60-person party this past weekend, resulting in thousands in fines to partiers who violated COVID-19 restrictions.

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Canada will have vaccine infrastructure in place around ‘Christmas,’ 1st doses in January – Global News

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The federal government laid out details for Canada’s coronavirus vaccine rollout Thursday, saying it plans to have logistics and infrastructure in place before Christmas, according to Dany Fortin, the lead on the nations’ COVID-19 distribution of a vaccine.

Speaking at a media conference, Fortin said although Health Canada is still reviewing approval for vaccines, the federal government and provinces are working on a rollout plan and will do a trial run next week.

Read more:
Canada’s review of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine will be completed ‘soon,’ health minister says

“We’re not going to wait until the end of December … we are getting ready so that when it becomes possible we are poised to distribute,” he said.

Fortin said the vaccines that require colder storage, such as Pfizer and Moderna, are most likely to be first distributed in January.

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But the initial shipments of vaccines to arrive in Canada, called “track one,” will be rolled out differently.

For example, Moderna’s vaccine will first be shipped to one location in Canada and then sent to communities across the country. But the Pfizer vaccine will be sent directly to the communities, according to the federal government.

This is because Pfizer’s vaccine requires specially designed temperature-controlled shipment and storage containers — the temperature has to be -70 C for up to 10 days unopened.


Click to play video 'Alberta health minister expects shipments of COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in early January'



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Alberta health minister expects shipments of COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in early January


Alberta health minister expects shipments of COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in early January

Fortin said the military, federal government and provinces are implementing a “soft launch” of the distribution plan in order to ensure authorities are ready to handle the ultra-low temperatures required for Pfizer and Moderna.

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Fourteen sites across Canada will be ready for Pfizer, he said.

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Moderna expects the vaccine to be stable at normal fridge temperatures of two to eight degrees Celsius for 30 days and it can be stored for up to six months at -20 C.

Fortin said every province has already identified the “points of use” where the vaccines will be distributed. And by Dec. 14, he added that these locations are expected to be ready for the vaccines.

“So this gives you a sense that in December, we’re hard at it in the next couple of weeks to ensure you that we are ready,” he said. “I kind of like the idea of being ready before the Christmas timeframe so that we’re certain to be ready when it comes in January.”

First vaccines will cover 3M Canadians

Currently, Health Canada is reviewing approval for four coronavirus vaccines.

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Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said Thursday that he is “optimistic” that reviews of Pfizer, Moderna and several other vaccines will be complete soon, and expects the Pfizer one to be “a favorable one.”

The federal government plans to give three million Canadians the first round of coronavirus vaccines when they are approved and arrive in the country, Njoo said.

Read more:
Will Canada lag behind on coronavirus vaccines? It’s complicated, experts say

“We will immunize as many Canadians as possible, as quickly as possible and ensure that high-risk populations are prioritized,” Njoo said. “We expect certain Health Canada-approved vaccines to become available in early 2021. The initial supply of these vaccines will be limited, such that we will be able to vaccinate around three million Canadians. That means we need to be strategic on who gets vaccinated first.”

He said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization will release guidelines in the coming days that will help identify who receives the COVID-19 shots first, he said.

“Although the initial supply will be limited I want to be clear there will be enough vaccines for every Canadian,” Njoo added.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: O’Toole blames ‘secrecy and incompetence’ of Trudeau government for vaccine delay'



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Coronavirus: O’Toole blames ‘secrecy and incompetence’ of Trudeau government for vaccine delay


Coronavirus: O’Toole blames ‘secrecy and incompetence’ of Trudeau government for vaccine delay

On Wednesday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, described the country’s vaccine effort as “one of the most consequential scientific endeavours in living memory” and “one of the most complex operations ever taken in public health.”

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Speaking at a vaccine conference, she said the country is working to further refine the list of who gets the vaccine first, since the initial six million doses expected to come in early 2021 — enough for three million people — aren’t enough for everyone on the national vaccine advisory committee’s list of priority groups, which include the ill and elderly, health-care workers, essential workers and Indigenous communities.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada around the world on Thursday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Alberta is planning for the creation of field hospitals to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients, while B.C. has introduced new restrictions on indoor group activities.

In Alberta, health officials recently met to discuss a plan for two or more indoor field hospitals to treat 750 COVID-19 patients, with 375 beds each in Calgary and Edmonton for patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms, according to an internal government document obtained by CBC News.

Patients requiring intensive care would remain in city hospitals, according to the draft implementation plan detailed in the Alberta Health Services (AHS) document.

There has been increasing pressure on hospitals in the province, which has recorded more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases each day for nearly two weeks. On Wednesday, officials reported 1,685 new cases, along with 10 new deaths. There were 504 people in hospital, 97 of whom were in intensive care.

WATCH | Prospect of field hospitals concerns Edmonton intensive care doctor:

‘This is damage control,’ said Dr. Darren Markland, an intensive care physician in Edmonton, speaking about an internal government draft plan to treat 750 COVID-19 patients in field hospitals. 6:03

Also on Wednesday, CBC News reported that Alberta has informally asked the Trudeau government and the Red Cross to supply field hospitals, according to a federal source.

The source said the province would likely receive at least four field hospitals — two from the Red Cross and another two from the federal government.

Alberta introduced new COVID-19 measures on Nov. 24. They included banning all social gatherings in people’s homes, making masks mandatory for all indoor workplaces in the province’s two largest cities and moving all students in grades 7 to 12 to online learning starting Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, British Columbia officials have announced new restrictions that prohibit all indoor adult team sports and return children’s programs to earlier, more restrictive guidelines.

The move came as the province reported 834 new cases and 12 more deaths on Wednesday, with COVID-19 hospitalizations rising to another new high of 337, including 79 in critical care.

“We continue to see that indoor group activities — whether for fitness or team sports — are much higher risk right now,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a written statement.

In her Wednesday press briefing, Henry again urged everyone to not travel unless absolutely essential, citing the example of an old timers’ hockey team from the Interior that recently travelled to Alberta for games.

Some team members came back with COVID-19 and exposed their family members and co-workers, which led to “several dozen” new cases in the community, Henry said.

WATCH | B.C.’s top doctor asks residents to avoid non-essential travel:

Dr. Bonnie Henry asks residents of B.C. to avoid non-essential travel as cases rise in the province. 1:52

Separately, news that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shortening the recommended length of quarantine after exposure has Canadian health experts weighing whether a similar approach could be useful here.

The CDC is shortening its quarantine recommendation from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result. Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday.

In an interview with CBC News, infection control and disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam said he believes that duration could be lowered given what has been learned about the disease since the pandemic began.

WATCH | Why one expert says Canada should look at shortening quarantine period:

Health Canada is still recommending a 14-day quarantine period for people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. But according to infection control and disease specialist Dr. Michael Gardam, that duration could be lowered given what has been learned about the disease since the pandemic began.  1:04

What’s happening across Canada

As of 11:15 a.m. ET on Thursday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 393,070 — two additional cases are pending confirmation — with 68,292 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,369.

Ontario reported 1,824 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 new deaths on Thursday. However, the number of new cases was inflated due to a processing error that resulted in the Middlesex-London public health unit recording three days’ worth of case data, the provincial health ministry said.

The number of patients confirmed to have COVID-19 in the province’s intensive care units has risen to 203, according to a report by Critical Care Services Ontario.

A person walks past a COVID-19 assessment centre in Toronto on Wednesday. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Public health officials have said that 150 is the threshold for when unrelated surgeries and procedures may be postponed or cancelled to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients. 

Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Wednesday that the province has “plateaued at a very high level,” and the results of lockdowns in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region, which began Nov. 23, won’t be seen until next week.

Quebec reported 1,470 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday — a day after surpassing 1,500 daily cases for the first time — along with 30 new deaths.

The province has tightened the health guidelines for stores and malls for the holiday shopping season, including a maximum capacity of customers based on floor space available to customers.

Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault said that many shopping venues already have such measures in place but those that don’t risk being fined up to $6,000 or closed altogether.

A sign showing the maximum number of clients as part of COVID-19 measures is seen at the entrance of a clothing store in Montreal on Wednesday. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported 17 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

In the evening, Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack confirmed two cases were found in the community in the province’s northern health zone — the first time COVID-19 has been detected on a First Nation in Atlantic Canada. Those cases were not part of Wednesday’s numbers reported by public health.

New Brunswick reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case.

Prince Edward Island, which did not provide an update on Wednesday, is adding 55 new front-line positions to schools across the province to support students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Manitoba, students in grades 7 to 12 will shift to remote learning for two weeks following the winter break as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Wednesday.

The announcement came as the province hit a record high of 351 people in hospital due to COVID-19, including 51 in intensive care. Officials also reported 277 new COVID-19 cases and 14 additional deaths.

Saskatchewan reported 238 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Wednesday.

WATCH | Nunavut lifts territory-wide lockdown but restrictions remain in Arviat:

Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, warns Arviat needs to keep its tight restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19. 1:04

In the North, Nunavut moved out of a two-week territory-wide lockdown on Wednesday, with restrictions easing for all communities except for Arviat, where community transmission of COVID-19 is still occurring. The territory reported 11 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, all in Arviat.

Yukon reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Wearing a mask in public indoor places became mandatory in the territory this week, following a sharp rise in cases in the past few weeks.

The Northwest Territories did not report any new cases on Wednesday. There have been 15 confirmed cases in the territory since the start of the pandemic, none of which are considered still active.


What’s happening around the world

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7 a.m. ET

As of early Thursday morning, there were more than 64.6 million reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 41.6 million of those listed as recovered or resolved, according to a tracking tool maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at nearly 1.5 million.

In the Americas, U.S. deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have surged past 2,000 for two days in a row as the most dangerous season of the year approached, taxing an overwhelmed health-care system with U.S. political leadership in disarray.

The toll from COVID-19 reached its second-highest level ever on Wednesday with 2,811 lives lost, according to a Reuters tally of official data, one short of the record from April 15. Nearly 200,000 new U.S. cases were reported on Wednesday, with record hospitalizations approaching 100,000 patients.

Santa Claus gestures to visitors in their cars as they attend the Dodgers Holiday Festival, a physically distanced drive-thru light and performance event honouring the Dodgers’ World Series win and celebrating the holiday season, at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles on Wednesday. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

The sobering data came as the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday warned that December, January and February were likely to be “the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that the United States could start losing around 3,000 people — roughly the number that died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — each day over the next two months.

In Europe, coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new record on Thursday, as the country’s authorities reported 28,145 new confirmed cases — the highest daily spike in the pandemic and an increase of 2,800 cases from those registered the previous day.

Russia’s total number of COVID-19 cases — nearly 2.4 million — remains the world’s fourth-highest. The government coronavirus task force has reported 41,607 deaths in the pandemic.

The country has been swept by a rapid resurgence of the outbreak this fall, with numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths regularly hitting new highs and significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. The country’s authorities have resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown or a widespread closure of businesses.

In the Asia-Pacific region, hundreds of thousands of masked students in South Korea, including 35 COVID-19 patients, are taking the country’s highly competitive university entrance exam despite a viral resurgence that has forced authorities to toughen physical distancing rules.

The Education Ministry says about 493,430 students began taking the one-day test at about 1,380 test sites across South Korea on Thursday. It says the test sites include hospitals and other medical facilities where the 35 virus patients and hundreds of others placed under self-quarantine will take the exam.

Africa’s top public health official says 60 per cent of the continent’s population needs to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in the next two to three years. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that if it takes four to five years, “the virus will be endemic in our communities.”

Concerns are growing that the continent of 1.3 billion people will be near the end of the line in obtaining doses. Nkengasong isn’t sure whether vaccines will be available in Africa before the second quarter of next year. But he pushed back against vaccine misinformation, saying that “if I had my way today to take a flight to the U.K. and get that vaccine, I would be doing it right now.”

The continent now has well over 2.1 million confirmed virus cases and more than 52,000 COVID-19-related deaths.

Iran, the hardest-hit nation in the Middle East, passed one million total COVID-19 cases on Thursday with 13,922 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said.

Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 358 people had died from the coronavirus since Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 49,348.

Iran has introduced tougher measures to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel restrictions.

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