By Steve Scherer and Allison Lampert
OTTAWA (Reuters) – With COVID-19 vaccine demand declining in the United States, some Canadians facing third-wave lockdowns are flying south to get inoculated, perhaps months earlier than they would be able to at home.
Jimmy Simmons, 37, saw friends in their 40s struggling to get a shot in the hard-hit Canadian province of Ontario. The Toronto businessman decided to spend a few weeks in New York City to meet clients and get vaccinated. He got his first of two shots on Tuesday.
Simmons, who works in real estate, is not yet eligible for a vaccine in Ontario. His girlfriend, a medical student who treats COVID-19 patients at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, has still only received one dose, he said.
“I want this (pandemic) to end, and in order for this end I need to get vaccinated,” Simmons said. “Just sitting at home in Ontario isn’t going to change anything.”
While almost a third of Americans have been fully vaccinated, Canada has inoculated only 3% of its almost 38 million people, though more than 34% have received a first dose.
Canada is allowing for a four-month gap between doses, while Americans are getting their second shots three or four weeks after the first to reach optimal protection much sooner.
The U.S vaccination campaign has reached a tipping point, with supply outstripping demand due to a combination of factors including skepticism about the vaccines. The number of Americans seeking vaccines dropped by a third in recent weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That is encouraging Canadians to cross the border and tap into this oversupply without paying any fee, which means the U.S. government is paying for foreign travelers to get their COVID-19 shots. The White House declined to comment.
Simmons and others had little trouble getting vaccinated at no charge in the United States, where the government is now practically begging people to get the shots and several states do not require proof of residency.
The trick was to fly because land crossing has been closed to non-essential traffic since March of 2020.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged those who are hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, saying it was a matter of “life or death.”
Everyone age 16 or older can get vaccinated in the United States, while in Ontario, most adults 18 and up will not be eligible for a first dose until May 24.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said everyone who wants to can be fully vaccinated by the end of September. Andrew D’Amours, 31, of Quebec City, said that could mean “another half pandemic” without getting inoculated.
He flew to Dallas and got vaccinated on April 10. With his business partner at the Flytrippers https://flytrippers.com travel website, D’Amours booked an appointment for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine online.
“It took a couple clicks. We got an appointment in a grocery store pharmacy and we booked flights for the next day, Friday, and on Saturday morning we were vaccinated,” D’Amours said.
While D’Amours used hotel and flight points, he estimated a weekend trip to Dallas – if two people share costs – could be as low as C$750 ($611) each. He flew directly from Montreal.
David, 37, an executive from Ontario, said he and his girlfriend got vaccinated without appointments at the Ellis Davis Field House site in Dallas, after showing a Texas hotel address.
When the couple went back for their second shot, “there was no one there,” he said. “It’s immoral that they may be throwing shots out while people are dying of COVID,” he said.
Americans have been sharing vaccines with Canadians in other ways. Truck drivers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan are receiving jabs in North Dakota, while Alaska’s governor has offered surplus shots to a neighboring Canadian town to help reopen the border sooner.
While it is not known how many Canadians are traveling for U.S. vaccines, several people on Simmons’ packed flight to New York told him they would get inoculated, and D’Amours has fielded several queries from others interested in doing so.
Canada still discourages foreign travel and requires a 14-day quarantine and testing upon re-entry. D’Amours said it still may be worth it.
“If you want to travel, if you want to be fully vaccinated, and you’re able to go and you’re going to do it safely, it is really easy,” he said.
($1 = 1.2271 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
Trudeau says he discussed border with Biden, but no deal
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he has spoken with U.S. President Joe Biden about how to lift pandemic-related border restrictions between the two countries but made clear no breakthrough has been achieved.
U.S. and Canadian business leaders have voiced increasing concern about the ban on non-essential travel in light of COVID-19 that was first imposed in March 2020 and renewed on a monthly basis since then. The border measures do not affect trade flows.
The border restrictions have choked off tourism between the two countries. Canadian businesses, especially airlines and those that depend on tourism, have been lobbying the Liberal government to relax the restrictions.
Canada last week took a cautious first step, saying it was prepared to relax quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated citizens returning home starting in early July.
Trudeau, speaking after a Group of Seven summit in Britain, said he had talked to Biden “about coordinating measures at our borders as both our countries move ahead with mass vaccination.” Canada is resisting calls for the border measures to be relaxed, citing the need for more people to be vaccinated.
The United States is ahead of Canada in terms of vaccination totals.
“We will continue to work closely together on moving forward in the right way but each of us always will put at the forefront the interests and the safety of our own citizens,” Trudeau told a televised news conference when asked the Biden conversation.
“Many countries, like Canada, continue to say that now is not the time to travel,” Trudeau added, though he said it is important to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Will Dunham)
Man with 39 wive dies in India
A 76-year-old man who had 39 wives and 94 children and was said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in north east India, the chief minister of his home state said.
With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count the grandchildren, of whom Ziona has 33.
Ziona lived with his family in a vast, four-story pink structure with around 100 rooms in Baktawng, a remote village in Mizoram that became a tourist attraction as a result, according to Zoramthanga.
The sect, named “Chana”, was founded by Ziona’s father in 1942 and has a membership of hundreds of families. Ziona married his first wife when he was 17, and claimed he once married ten wives in a single year.
They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom, and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.
Despite his family’s huge size, Ziona told Reuters in a 2011 interview he wanted to grow it even further.
“I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry,” he said.
“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Adnan Abidi in New Delhi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
Huawei CFO seeks publication ban on HSBC documents in U.S. extradition case
Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Monday will seek to bar publication of documents her legal team received from HSBC, a request opposed by Canadian prosecutors in her U.S. extradition case who say it violates the principles of open court.
Meng’s legal team will present arguments in support of the ban in the British Columbia Supreme Court.
Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States, where she faces charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran and potentially causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions on business in Iran.
She has been under house arrest in Vancouver for more than two years and fighting her extradition to the United States. Meng has said she is innocent.
Lawyers for Huawei and HSBC in Hong Kong agreed to a release of the documents in April to Meng’s legal team on the condition that they “use reasonable effort” to keep confidential information concealed from the public, according to submissions filed by the defense on Friday.
Prosecutors representing the Canadian government argued against the ban, saying in submissions filed the same day that “to be consistent with the open court principle, a ban must be tailored” and details should be selectively redacted from the public, rather than the whole documents.
A consortium of media outlets, including Reuters News, also opposes the ban.
The open court principle requires that court proceedings be open and accessible to the public and to the media.
It is unclear what documents Huawei obtained from HSBC, but defense lawyers argue they are relevant to Meng’s case.
Meng’s hearing was initially set to wrap up in May but Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes granted an extension to allow the defense to read through the new documents.
Hearings in the extradition case are scheduled to finish in late August.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Howard Goller)
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