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Canada-U.S. land border restrictions, hotel quarantine extended

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By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada and the United States on Tuesday extended a land-border closure for non-essential travelers, and air passengers arriving in Canada will continue to be tested for COVID-19 ahead of a hotel quarantine period, authorities said.

The land-border restrictions, imposed in March 2020, have been extended to May 21. Now in place for 13 months, they are being renewed month by month. Mexico said late on Monday it was maintaining some of its border curbs too.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was “engaged in discussions with Canada and Mexico about easing restrictions as health conditions improve”.

The restrictions have hit many border communities and businesses hard. Many U.S. lawmakers have urged loosening the restrictions or setting a road map to resuming normalized travel.

But Canada lags the United States on vaccinations against the coronavirus, and much of the country is now fighting a virulent third wave of the pandemic with school and business closures.

Canada‘s mandatory three-day hotel quarantine following testing at airports, which was introduced as a temporary measure to discourage spring break travel, was also extended to May 21, health authorities said.

In February, Canada began testing and requiring international air arrivals to pay for a three-day hotel quarantine, a measure criticized by airlines squeezed by the pandemic. More flight restrictions may be coming.

“We are continuing to look at more (measures),” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference. “I have asked our officials to look carefully at, for example, what the UK has done very recently on suspending flights from India.”

Quebec Premier Francois Legault also expressed concern on Tuesday about international flights from India and Brazil – two of the world’s worst hot spots for the coronavirus.

Air travelers to Canada are required to have had a test within three days of departure, and then again on arrival. If the airport text comes back negative, they can finish a 14-day quarantine at home.

However, data obtained by Reuters showed that more than 1,000 passengers, or 1.5% of those who arrived from Feb. 22 to March 25, tested positive for COVID-19, raising doubt about a broad easing of restrictions before the summer travel season.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa, additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Mark Heinrich)

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At least 34 dead after floods in north India

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At least 34 people have died following days of heavy rains in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand, the state’s chief minister said, as rescuers continued work to free those stranded on Wednesday.

Aerial footage of the affected areas showed engorged rivers and villages partially submerged by floodwaters.

“There is huge loss due to the floods … the crops have been destroyed,” Pushkar Singh Dhami told Reuters partner ANI after surveying the damage late on Tuesday.

“The locals are facing a lot of problems, the roads are waterlogged, bridges have been washed away. So far 34 people have died and we are trying to normalise the situation as soon as possible.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet he was “anguished” by the loss of life.

The Himalayan state of Uttarakhand is especially prone to flooding. More than 200 were feared killed in February after flash floods swept away a hydroelectric dam.

Unseasonally heavy rains across India have led to deadly floods in several areas of the country in recent days. Authorities in the southern state of Kerala said on Monday more than 20 people had died there following landslides. (This story corrects typographic error in the last paragraph)

 

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Jane Wardell)

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Japanese volcano spews plumes of ash, people warned away

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A  volcano erupted in Japan on Wednesday, blasting ash several miles into the sky and prompting officials to warn against the threat of lava flows and falling rocks, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

Mount Aso, a tourist destination on the main southern island of Kyushu, sent plumes of ash 3.5 km (2.2 miles) high when it erupted at about 11:43 a.m. (0243 GMT), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

It raised the alert level for the volcano to 3 on a scale of 5, telling people not to approach, and warned of a risk of large falling rocks and pyroclastic flows within a radius of about 1 km (0.6 mile) around the mountain’s Nakadake crater.

The government is checking to determine the status of a number of climbers on the mountain at the time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters, but added that there were no reports of casualties.

Television networks broadcast images of a dark cloud of ash looming over the volcano that swiftly obscured large swathes of the mountain.

Ash falls from the 1,592-metre (5,222-foot) mountain in the prefecture of Kumamoto are expected to shower nearby towns until late afternoon, the weather agency added.

Mount Aso had a small eruption in 2019, while Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years killed 63 people on Mount Ontake in September 2014.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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UK Manchester Airport terminal to reopen after security scare

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Terminal Two at Britain’s  Manchester Airport will reopen after Greater Manchester Police found no security threat following reports of a suspicious package, a spokesperson for the airport said on Tuesday.

“…Greater Manchester Police is satisfied that there is no security threat and has lifted the cordon that was in place,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the terminal will reopen within the next hour.

The terminal was closed earlier on Tuesday evening after police began assessment of reports of a suspicious package.

In a previous statement, the airport said a “controlled evacuation” was taking place.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas and Nishit Jogi in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Pullin)

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