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Canada-US border reopening: Business sector reacts – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

Monday’s reopening of the Canada-U.S. land border is sparking a mixed reaction among Canadian business leaders: They’re excited that people and not just goods will be crossing the border again but are wary of remaining red tape.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of Canada say the Canadian requirement for returning travellers to provide a recent, negative molecular test is an unnecessary obstacle to kick-starting business travel and tourism.

They say proof of vaccination is all that should be needed and the test requirement should be scrapped.

They argue that the continued testing requirement is too cumbersome for Canadian business travellers wanting a quick visit to an American destination, and too expensive for families who want a vacation or reunion with loved ones.

“If we believe, as we should, that being fully vaccinated is the best way of minimizing risk, we should be trusting the vaccination systems. We should be monitoring what’s taking place in terms of outbreaks in the two countries,” chamber president Perrin Beatty said in an interview.

“It’s a competitive disadvantage to Canada and North America to have rules that are inconsistent with where most of the world is moving to,” said Goldy Hyder, the president of the Business Council of Canada.

While the U.S. will not require travellers to show a negative COVID-19 test, the Canadian government is not waiving that requirement for citizens and permanent residents when they enter Canada.

That means that when the land border opens for the first time to non-essential travellers since March 2020, it will not be accompanied by an end to a negative COVID-19 test requirement for Canadian travellers.

Beatty said the response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States 20 years ago offers the government a good lesson in risk management.

After the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon, the Canada-U.S. border was slammed shut. It quickly reopened because both governments realized that trade and the flow of goods and people across the border all needed to resume, but with tighter security measures in place.

Canada and the U.S. realized they couldn’t stamp out terrorism, so they “adopted a risk management approach that said, ‘What we will do is we’ll focus on the areas of highest risk. We’ll use intelligence,”‘ said Beatty.

“But the government treated COVID in a very different way, one that was unco-ordinated, and one that wasn’t based on risk management.”

Meredith Lilly, the Simon Reisman Chair in trade policy at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, said it might be some time before the impact of border closures and various lockdowns will be known on a key aspect of international trade — labour mobility.

“We have all just been subjected to the world’s largest experiment in digitalization. Many of us have been forced to learn how to operate in the digital environment and not travel to do work that once required us to be in person,” said Lilly.

“I don’t know that we yet fully understand the consequences of ΓǪ whether that is going to impact the liberalization of labour mobility, where people were mega-commuting and where we saw labour mobility as kind of a big, important part of 21st-century globalized trade.”

Lilly said the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the new border security and anti-terrorism measures that followed could prove instructive in the years ahead.

For example, she said day trips between the two countries dropped dramatically, the result of what became known as “the unfriendly border phenomenon in which travellers opt to forgo trips out of reluctance to face heightened scrutiny.

The expense and inconvenience of getting a PCR test could prove discouraging. That could have a damaging effect on tourism, leading to a decline in shorter, more spontaneous trips, said Lilly.

Larger companies might be able to absorb the cost of tests, but smaller businesses might not be able to shoulder them, she added.

Hyder said the government needs to have more faith in the ability of vaccines to stop the spread of COVID-19 or at least weaken its impact on people who might contract it.

“We have to have a new approach to the way we manage risk and we see risk. And I think Canadians should be rewarded with their compliance on the vaccines,” said Hyder.

“If the only people moving around are fully vaccinated people, it is time that we trust the vaccine, and we recognize that the endemic nature of this means we have to coexist with this.”

Brian Kingston, the president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, said the auto industry is ready to take advantage of whatever new flexibility unrestricted land travel will allow, given that the integrated industry and its supply chain straddles the Canada-U.S. border.

“We saw continued movement of parts and finished vehicles throughout the pandemic, which is all very positive. However, we have had challenges with the movement of personnel,” said Kingston, citing engineers and researchers.

“There have been challenges with respect to the rules around the border, in particular the definition of what is an essential worker and the exemptions that were provided.”

While travelling by plane was always an option, the fact that so much of the industry is clustered around the Windsor-Detroit border meant that simply created planning headaches while generating extra expense, he said.

“Something comes up. You have to visit a facility, or fix a piece of machinery. It was just an extra burden to have to go to an airport and fly into the U.S.,” said Kingston.

“Having that in the rear-view mirror — it’s great.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2021.

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Hoping Omicron won’t wreck Christmas, Bethlehem lights up tree

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Residents lit up a giant Christmas tree outside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity on Saturday, hoping that a new coronavirus variant doesn’t ruin another holiday season in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

The Palestinian city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was all but closed last Christmas, losing its peak tourist season to the pandemic.

This December has seen Israel shut out foreign travellers for 14 days to try to prevent the Omicron variant taking hold, and the hope is that the ban will end as scheduled, in time for Christmas travel. In its last pre-pandemic winter, in 2019/20, Bethlehem hosted 3.5 million visitors.

The giant tree, topped with a bright red star, was lit up with hundreds of coloured lights as red, white and green fireworks illuminated the night sky.

Mayor Anton Salman said the travel ban had prevented several foreign delegations attending.

Nonetheless, the audience in Manger Square in front of the church was far bigger than last year, when coronavirus restrictions kept even local spectators away.

“It is very joyful, a very nice evening. The air is full of hope, full of joy, full of expectation,” said Maria, a tourist from Finland who did not provide her full name.

 

(Reporting by Mohammed Abu Ganeyeh and Yosri al-Jamal in Bethlehem and Roleen Tafakji in Jerusalem; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Stuck in South Africa, new travel rules put this Canadian's trip home for the holidays at risk – CBC.ca

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Andrew Neumann’s hopes of making it home for the holidays have been cast into doubt by the emergence of the omicron coronavirus variant and the swift implementation of new pandemic border restrictions around the world.

“It’s actually a particularly sensitive time,” Neumann, a Canadian living in South Africa, said in an interview on CBC’s The House that aired Saturday. His son just started university in Toronto, his first year away from home, he explained. And there are other pressing concerns.

“My wife’s father is very ill. He’s in his 80s. He’s undergoing chemotherapy…. Likewise, my mother’s 91. She’s in sort of cognitive decline. I haven’t seen her in two years,” he told host Chris Hall.

“And there’s a question mark again in my mind: Am I going to be able to say goodbye?” Neumann said.

20:23Borders tighten again

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino discusses new restrictions and testing measures at the border and Peel Region medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh explains how his jurisdiction is dealing with concerns about omicron. 20:23

Neumann has lived in Johannesburg since 2015. He was planning to return to Canada for the holidays when new travel restrictions were put in place affecting travellers from 10 countries, mostly in southern Africa. Canadians trying to come home from those countries must now meet a series of additional testing and quarantine requirements.

Travellers must get a pre-departure molecular COVID-19 test 72 hours ahead of their departure, something Canadians are now used to, but that test must be in a third country — not any of the 10 on Canada’s list. Neumann was planning to get a test during his connection in Germany, but additional rules put in place there have made that impossible.

Canadian, German restrictions clash

A letter Neumann received from the Canadian High Commission in South Africa said German airline Lufthansa would not allow Canadians to board because of that third-country testing requirement and restrictions put in place by Germany.

Neumann’s situation closely resembles that of the Canadian junior women’s field hockey team, which has also been stuck in South Africa. The team has asked for an exemption to leave the country.

Andrew Neumann and his family have been trying to come back to Canada from South Africa. (Submitted)

Neumann said he has been struck by what he says is the “cavalier” way the government has answered the questions of would-be travellers whose plans the restrictions have thrown into limbo.

He also says the restrictions themselves make little sense given what we now know about the spread of the omicron variant.

“It just seems so disproportionate a response to southern Africa versus the rest of the world that you have to question the motivations,” he said.

In an emailed response to CBC News, Global Affairs Canada said this country’s entry requirements are meant to ensure the safety of Canadians. It said that the implementation of restrictions could disrupt travel plans but that “the decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the individual.”

“We can confirm that we are receiving reports of Canadians abroad affected by these new measures,” the statement said.

Debate over travel ban effectiveness

In a separate interview on The House, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the restrictions are being implemented to give Canada the time to assess the risk of the omicron variant and “protect the progress” the country has made against the pandemic.

“I’d acknowledge that we’re at a moment where there will be some challenges, but we put in place public health measures because of the variant of concern.”

WATCH | New travel restrictions throw travel plans into chaos: 

Omicron variant renews uncertainty for travellers

3 days ago

The uncertainty around the omicron variant and new COVID-19 testing and isolation requirements has some wondering if international travel is about to be upended again. 2:04

There has been significant criticism of the travel measures put in place by Canada and other countries, with growing evidence that the new variant had been circulating in several nations before South African researchers first discovered it in late November and travel restrictions were imposed.

Part of the debate has centred on the efficacy of travel restrictions themselves, with some experts arguing they do little to stop the spread of a new variant. The president of South Africa called them “unscientific” and “discriminatory.”

Mendicino said the restrictions on the 10 countries were not politically motivated but instead based on science.

“We’re doing it because we want to protect Canadians. This is not their first go-around. We’ve done this drill before, and we want to make sure that we’re taking the right decision when it comes to protecting the health and safety of Canadians,” he said.

WATCH | Debate over the effectiveness of travel restrictions: 

Travel bans unfairly target country that identified omicron variant, specialist says

3 days ago

Dr. Samir Gupta, a respirologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto, says travel bans to prevent the omicron variant’s spread can buy time, but penalize the countries that identify new virus variants. 7:52

For one medical officer of health in Canada, the bans are of some use but should not be the focus of government.

“You know, the honest truth is that it probably would have limited impact overall, but it may help to slow the introduction of omicron,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh of Peel Region, which hosts Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

For Neumann, it’s clear the travel bans are not justified.

“When we know now that it’s also everywhere else in the world suggests that poorer countries are at a disadvantage, certainly versus Europe and Canada and the U.S.,” he said.

Despite the challenges so far, Neumann now has a flight booked for next Friday and describes himself as “somewhat hopeful” his travel plans will work out.

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Russia says airliner had to lose height to avoid NATO spy plane

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A Russian Aeroflot airliner flying from Tel Aviv to Moscow was forced to change altitude over the Black Sea because a NATO CL-600 reconnaissance plane crossed its designated flight path, Russia’s state aviation authority said on Saturday.

The state airline said flight SU501 carrying 142 passengers had had to drop 2,000 feet on Friday after air traffic control told it that another aircraft had crossed its path.

The crew were able to see the other plane when they passed in the sky, it said in a separate statement.

The aviation authority, Rosaviatsia, said a smaller CL-650 aircraft flying from the Black Sea resort of Sochi to Skopje had also had to change its course.

It did not say which NATO member the reconnaissance aircraft belonged to. Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Friday it had scrambled fighter jets to escort two U.S. military reconnaissance planes over the Black Sea.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow made no immediate comment about the incident when it was first reported by the Interfax news agency.

Rosaviatsia said an increase in flights by NATO aircraft in the region was creating risks for civilian planes and that Moscow planned to lodge a diplomatic complaint over them.

International tensions have been rising over Ukraine and the Black Sea region.

Kyiv and NATO powers accuse Russia of building up troops near Ukraine, sparking fears of a possible attack. Moscow denies any such plan and accuses Kyiv of building up its own forces in its east, where Russian-backed separatists control a large part of Ukrainian territory.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Helen Popper and Kevin Liffey)

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