Canada saw a spike in the number of international travellers entering the country as it eased COVID-19 measures and reopened its borders to fully vaccinated individuals earlier this year.
New figures released Friday by Statistics Canada for the month of October, showed 263,400 non-resident arrivals at Canadian airports, representing more than a 14-fold increase compared to the same time last year.
Among those foreigners who flew in to Canada last month, 114,200 came from the United States and 149,200 from other countries.
Starting Aug. 9, Canada eased its travel restrictions — in place since March 2020 — allowing fully vaccinated Americans into the country for non-essential purposes, without having to quarantine upon arrival.
On Sept. 7, the borders were opened further, allowing in foreign travellers from across the globe.
Under the new measures, anyone entering the country must be fully vaccinated with shots approved by Health Canada, and show proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before their scheduled flight.
Expected flood of Canadians using land crossing into U.S. border towns failed to materialize
This development is no surprise, given the “tremendous safeguards in place” and the national vaccination uptake — nearly 75 per cent, said Martin Firestone, a travel insurance broker in Toronto.
“I think it shows confidence to travel, quite frankly, that you are coming to a country that’s incredibly safe, with vaccination levels higher than most countries in the world,” he told Global News.
“There is that peace of mind for some that the person on the plane next to them is hopefully vaccinated,” he added.
Allowing more Canadian airports — currently 10 — to accept international flights has also contributed to a greater number of people flying in, Firestone said.
As of Nov. 30, eight more airports in Canada will be open to international travel, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced earlier this month.
Firestone said the bottom line is it’s “much easier to travel and get here” compared to a year before. “Travel is coming back bigger and better than ever,” he said.
Last month, Canadians also flew home in greater numbers compared to the same time last year. More than 480,000 Canadian residents returned by air — over eight times greater than the traffic in October 2020. But that’s still about half the number from pre-pandemic levels from October 2019, the StatCan report states.
Since Canada reopened its land border with the U.S., arrivals by car have also picked up.
According to StatCan, U.S. residents took 412,200 trips to Canada in August. That number reflects more than double the land traffic in July — the highest since the pandemic began in March 2020.
However, U.S. land arrivals into Canada dipped in October to 292,200 trips.
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Meanwhile, there were 207,600 Canadian residents who returned from the United States by car last month.
But since the U.S. land border was closed to Canadians until Nov. 8, Firestone said many of his snowbird clients had to fly down and make provisions to get their cars shipped or rent vehicles.
While there is greater demand to travel than earlier in the pandemic, Firestone said incurring the cost of a PCR test — as much as $200 — to come back into Canada is preventing many Canadians from going away.
The lack of COVID-19 vaccines for kids under the age of 12 in Canada is another barrier.
“Since children under 12 are unvaccinated, you still have to quarantine when you come back,” said Firestone.
“That’s creating tremendous hesitancy among families going anywhere over the holiday season.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
First cases of COVID-19 discovered in Canadian wildlife – CTV News
The first cases of COVID-19 in Canadian wildlife have been discovered in three white-tailed deer, a press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada reports.
The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease confirmed the detections on Nov. 29 but the deer were sampled between Nov. 6 to 8 in the Estrie region of Quebec. The deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease and were “all apparently healthy.”
“As this is the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife in Canada, information on the impacts and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited,” the press release states.
“The finding emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to increase our understanding about SARS-CoV-2 on the human-animal interface.”
The World Organisation for Animal Health was notified about the discovery on Dec. 1.
The department is urging added precaution – like wearing a well-fitted mask – when exposed to “respiratory tissues and fluids from deer.”
The virus has been found in multiple animal species globally including farmed mink, cats, dogs, ferrets, and zoo animals such as tigers, lions, gorillas, cougars, otters and others.
“Recent reports in the United States have revealed evidence of spillover of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to wild white-tailed deer, with subsequent spread of the virus among deer. There has been no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time,” the release reads.
U.N. seeks record $41 billion for aid to hotspots led by Afghanistan, Ethiopia
The United Nations appealed on Thursday for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to 183 million people worldwide caught up in conflict and poverty, led by a tripling of its programme in Afghanistan.
Famine remains a “terrifying prospect” for 45 million people living in 43 countries, as extreme weather caused by climate change shrinks food supplies, the U.N. said in the annual appeal, which reflected a 17% rise in annual funding needs.
“The drivers of needs are ones which are familiar to all of us. Tragically, it includes protracted conflicts, political instability, failing economies … the climate crisis, not a new crisis, but one which urges more attention and of course the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.
In a report to donors, the world body said: “Without sustained and immediate action, 2022 could be catastrophic.”
Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan are the five major crises requiring the most funding, topped by $4.5 billion sought for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where “needs are skyrocketing”, it said.
In Afghanistan, more than 24 million people require life-saving assistance, a dramatic increase driven by political tumult, repeated economic shocks, and severe food insecurity caused by the worst drought in 27 years.
“We are in the business in the U.N. of trying to urgently establish with support from the World Bank as well as the U.N. system, a currency swap initiative which will allow liquidity to go into the economy,” Griffiths said.
“The absence of cash in Afghanistan is a major impediment to any delivery of services,” he said. “I am hoping that we get it up and running before the end of this month.”
In Ethiopia, where a year-old conflict between government and Tigrayan forces has spread into the Amhara and Afar regions, thousands have been displaced, while fighting, drought and locusts push more to the brink, the U.N. said.
Nearly 26 million Ethiopians require aid, including more than 9 million who depend on food rations, including 5 million in Tigray, amid rising malnutrition rates, it said.
“Ethiopia is the most alarming probably almost certainly in terms of immediate emergency need,” Griffiths said, adding that 400,000 people had been deemed at risk of famine already in May.
Noting that heavy fighting continued, with government forces battling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front forces who have moved closer to the capital Addis Ababa, he added: “But capacity to respond to an imploded Ethiopia is almost impossible to imagine.”
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Richard Pullin)
Doug Ford applauds new COVID-19 travel restrictions, says more discussions with feds to be held – Globalnews.ca
Ontario Premier Doug Ford thanked the federal government for implementing new travel restrictions in a bid to stop the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and said more discussions will be held about possibly expanding new testing rules to travellers from the United States.
Ford made the remarks at an unrelated press conference in Mississauga Wednesday morning.
Several Omicron variant cases have already been confirmed in Ontario, and Ford said while it is a “cause for concern” it is “not cause for panic.”
“Every day we hold off more cases entering our country, the more time we have to learn and prepare,” Ford said.
“So the best thing we can do right now is fortify our borders. Our best defence is keeping the variant out of our country. We welcome the actions from the federal government and I want to thank the feds for taking action to date.
“We implored them last week to act quickly and be decisive on the borders and they did.”
In a statement last Friday, Ford called on the federal government to enact travel bans on “countries of concern” and the feds followed through just hours later.
On Tuesday, they expanded that ban to three additional countries.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said foreign nationals from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt who have been to those countries over the past two weeks will not be able to enter Canada. This added to the seven other African countries barred by Canada on Friday: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.
Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions
Canadians and permanent residents, as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada, who have transited through these countries over the past two weeks, will have to quarantine, be tested at the airport, and await their test results before exiting quarantine, Duclos said.
It was also announced that all air travellers entering Canada — excluding those coming from the United States — would have to get tested when they arrive and isolate until they receive a negative result. That measure applies to all travellers, regardless of vaccination status.
Duclos said Wednesday that it will take time to implement the new measure.
In his statement last week, Ford also called for point-of-arrival testing to be put in place.
He also said he advised the province’s chief medical officer and Public Health Ontario to “immediately implement expanded surveillance” and update planning to “ensure we are ready for any outcome.”
The Omicron variant has now been detected in many countries around the world, including, as of Wednesday, the United States.
Ford was asked if he would support expanding the new testing rules to those arriving from the States.
“I would always support anything that can be cautious to prevent this variant coming into our country. So, again we’ll have a discussion with the federal government. That’s their jurisdiction, it’s not ours,” Ford said.
“They work collaboratively with all the provinces and territories and I’m always for going the cautious route as I think people have seen over the last 20 months.”
The premier added that “it doesn’t take much to get a test at the airport.”
Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Wednesday that it’s too early to say whether Canada’s latest requirement to test arriving air travellers will be extended to include those coming from the United States.
“We need to be prepared and ready if we need to adjust that decision to include travellers from the U.S. We haven’t made that decision yet,” he said.
When asked what provincial measures are being considered in response to the Omicron variant, Ford said they will make sure there is expanded testing capacity and contact tracing.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said there is still much that isn’t known about the variant, including how effective vaccines are against it.
She said the province is “continuing with all of our precautions” and said it’s important to keep border restrictions in place until more is known about the variant.
Elliott also said more information will be released in the coming days “with respect to age categories” on booster shots.
— With files from Saba Aziz and The Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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