Convincing dubious countries to allow Canadians with mixed vaccines to travel across their borders may be tricky, but Canada has a responsibility to try, according to a director with the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA).
The federal government is expected to release more details about a standardized vaccine passport for Canadians in the coming weeks, but even with that in hand some Canadians will find themselves turned away at certain borders or mandated to quarantine.
Several countries, including the United States, only recognize people with two identical doses of an approved vaccine as being fully vaccinated. As well, Oxford-AstraZeneca is not on the list of approved vaccines in many places.
There are at least 3.88 million fully vaccinated Canadians who received two different kinds of shots, not including those from Quebec where data on mixed vaccines is unavailable.
Of those, roughly 1.5 million Canadians received a first dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca or Covishield, which uses the same formula.
“The problem we have here in Canada is that we’re one of the few places that have really done this in any significant way, and Canada is a tiny travel market compared to the whole world,” said Richard Vanderlubbe, director of ACTA and president of tripcentral.ca.
Canada was initially something of an outlier this past summer when it allowed people to mix and match vaccine doses, and research on the immune response to that approach has been positive.
Those who followed public health directions and got the first dose available to them are likely to become frustrated at not being able to travel once mandatory vaccine rules are passed around the world, Vanderlubbe warned.
“I’m sure the frustration will rise, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has presented data on the effectiveness of mixed doses to the U.S. and other top-priority destinations.
“I think there’s a big obligation to do that,” Vanderlubbe said.
Canada has been particularly active in spreading information about the effectiveness of mixing AstraZeneca with mRNA vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
“They have not used AstraZeneca vaccine in the U.S. and certainly not a mixed-dose schedule. As a result they don’t have domestically generated information on that front,” Tam said at a Sept. 24 press briefing.
New rules in the U.S. would see only travellers fully vaccinated to America’s standard allowed to fly over the border. That could leave vaccinated Canadians who have previously been allowed to fly to the States with only a negative COVID-19 test unable to travel as early as November.
The land border is set to remain closed until at least Oct. 21.
Canada still advises against all unessential travel outside of the country, but even so the government hopes other countries will recognize the vaccine status of Canadians who received two doses of a domestically approved vaccine.
Some popular European destinations already recognize mixed doses because they followed a similar approach to Canada, Tam said.
“We still have to advise travellers that they must check in with the specific country requirements prior to travel because it is a bit of a varied landscape out there but we’re doing everything we can to facilitate that recognition,” she said.
Travellers coming to Canada who meet vaccine requirements are exempt from mandatory quarantine on arrival, but only if the vaccine is one that has already been approved by Health Canada.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2021.
Overcoming scandal and PTSD, Japan’s Princess Mako finally marries college sweetheart
Japan‘s Princess Mako, the emperor’s niece, has married her commoner college sweetheart on Tuesday and left the royal family after a years-long engagement beset by scrutiny that has left the princess with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Mako and fiance Kei Komuro, both 30, announced their engagement four years ago, a move initially cheered by the country. But things soon turned sour as tabloids reported on a money scandal involving Komuro’s mother, prompting the press to turn on him. The marriage was postponed, and he left Japan for law studies in New York in 2018 only to return in September.
Their marriage consisted of an official from the Imperial Household Agency (IHA), which runs the family’s lives, submitting paperwork to a local office in the morning, foregoing the numerous rituals and ceremonies usual to royal weddings, including a reception.
Mako also refused to receive a one-off payment of about $1.3 million typically made to royal women who marry commoners and become ordinary citizens, in line with Japanese law.
Television footage showed Mako, wearing a pastel dress and pearls, saying goodbye to her parents and 26-year-old sister, Kako, at the entrance to their home. Though all wore masks in line with Japan’s coronavirus protocol, her mother could be seen blinking rapidly, as if to fight off tears.
Though Mako bowed formally to her parents, her sister grabbed her shoulders and the two shared a long embrace.
In the afternoon, Mako and her new husband will hold a news conference, which will also depart from custom. While royals typically answer pre-submitted questions at such events, the couple will make a brief statement and hand out written replies to the questions instead.
“Some of the questions took mistaken information as fact and upset the princess,” said officials at the IHA, according to NHK public television.
Komuro, dressed in a crisp dark suit and tie, bowed briefly to camera crews gathered outside his home as he left in the morning but said nothing. His casual demeanour on returning to Japan, including long hair tied back in a ponytail, had sent tabloids into a frenzy.
Just months after the two announced their engagement at a news conference where their smiles won the hearts of the nation, tabloids reported a financial dispute between Komuro’s mother and her former fiance, with the man claiming mother and son had not repaid a debt of about $35,000.
The scandal spread to mainstream media after the IHA failed to provide a clear explanation. In 2021, Komuro issued a 24-page statement on the matter and also said he would pay a settlement.
Public opinion polls show the Japanese are divided about the marriage, and there has been at least one protest.
Analysts say the problem is that the imperial family is so idealised that not the slightest hint of trouble with things such as money or politics should touch them.
The fact that Mako’s father and younger brother, Hisahito, are both in the line of succession after Emperor Naruhito, whose daughter is ineligible to inherit, makes the scandal particularly damaging, said Hideya Kawanishi, an associate professor of history at Nagoya University.
“Though it’s true they’ll both be private citizens, Mako’s younger brother will one day become emperor, so some people thought anybody with the problems he (Komuro) had shouldn’t be marrying her,” Kawanishi added.
The two will live in New York, though Mako will remain on her own in Tokyo for some time after the wedding to prepare for the move, including applying for the first passport of her life.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
EU countries splinter ahead of crisis talks on energy price spike
Divisions have deepened among European Union countries ahead of an emergency meeting of ministers on Tuesday on their response to a spike in energy prices, with some countries seeking a regulatory overhaul and others firmly opposed.
European gas prices have hit record highs in autumn and remained at lofty levels, prompting most EU countries to respond with emergency measures like price caps and subsidies to help trim consumer energy bills.
Countries are struggling to agree, however, on a longer term plan to cushion against fossil-fuel price swings, which Spain, France, the Czech Republic and Greece say warrant a bigger shake-up of the way EU energy markets work.
Ministers from those countries will make the case on Tuesday for proposals that include decoupling European electricity and gas prices, joint gas buying among countries to create emergency reserves, and, in the case of a few countries including Poland, delaying planned policies to address climate change.
In an indication of differences likely to emerge at the meeting, nine countries including Germany – Europe’s biggest economy and market for electricity – on Monday said they would not support EU electricity market reforms.
“This will not be a remedy to mitigate the current rising energy prices linked to fossil fuels markets,” the countries said in a joint statement.
The European Commission has asked regulators to analyse the design of Europe’s electricity market, but said there was no evidence that a different market structure would have fared better during the recent price jump.
“Any interventions on the market and the decoupling of [gas and power] pricing are off the table,” one EU diplomat said, adding there was “no appetite” among most countries for those measures.
Other proposals – such as countries forming joint gas reserves – would also not offer a quick fix and could take months to negotiate. A European Commission proposal to upgrade EU gas market regulation to make it greener, due in December, is seen as the earliest that such proposals would arrive.
With less than a week until the international COP26 climate change summit, the energy price spike has also stoked tensions between countries over the EU’s green policies, setting up a clash as they prepare to negotiate new proposals including higher tax rates for polluting fuels.
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has dismissed such plans as “utopian fantasy”, a stance at odds with other EU countries who say the price jump should trigger a faster switch to low-emission, locally produced renewable energy, to help reduce exposure to imported fossil fuel prices.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
Bad weather off Canadian coast preventing efforts to board container ship after fire
Sixteen crew members were evacuated from the MV Zim Kingston on Saturday. Five remained onboard to fight the fire, which was largely under control by late Sunday.
The company has appointed a salvage crew “but due to the current weather, (they) have been unable to board the container ship”, the coast guard said on Twitter.
“The containers continue to smolder and boundary cooling – spraying water on the hull and on containers near the fire – continues,” it added.
The ship is anchored several kilometers (miles) off the southern coast of Vancouver Island, in the province of British Columbia. There is no impact to human health, the coast guard said.
Danaos Shipping Co, the company that manages the ship, said on Sunday that no injuries had been reported on board.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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