Canadians stranded in the United Kingdom are facing uncertainty around how or when they will be able to get home and in some cases where they will stay while waiting out the travel ban.
Brooke Johnson, 42, is from Niagara Region, but had travelled to London for work. Her contract ended on Dec. 18, and she had been preparing to leave when Canada suspended all commercial and private passenger flights from the U.K.
That initial 72-hour suspension on flights from the U.K. has now been extended for two weeks until Jan. 6, as Canada tries to prevent a new variant of the novel coronavirus detected there from spreading here.
There are concerns that the new variant is significantly more contagious than other strains, though it may not be any more deadly.
Johnson said she is stressed about “this open ended thing of not knowing when this is going to end or where I am going to stay.”
The problem, Johnson said, is that her accommodation runs out soon and parts of London and areas in the southeast of England are under stricter, “Tier 4” COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s a little scary because of course the hotels and Airbnb have been closed for bookings so I have somewhere to stay until December 28th, but after that it’s a big question mark,” she said.
Reports of thousands left stranded in the U.K.
There are reports of many people left stranded in the U.K. as dozens of countries around the world imposed travel restrictions on fights from the country.
Global Affairs Canada said there are currently 11,038 Canadians registered as being in the country, but this is a voluntary registration and not all may wish to leave.
Johnson said she has a few days to find a place to stay.
“In normal times, I would check into a hotel or stay with friends, but who’s gonna take me in now in the middle of the pandemic when things are raging in London? I’ll be putting myself and others at risk,” she said.
“It is what it is right now, but it’s really hard and stressful.”
Saeed Durhan, 51, was lucky enough to be able to extend his hotel stay, but it’s costly.
“We’ve been scrambling to find a flight home since Sunday,” he said.
“We haven’t found anything.”
Durhan travelled from Mississauga for vacation and to visit family but now he can’t book a flight to get him and his 15-year-old son home.
He has even tried to book a flight back to Canada through Washington D.C., but was told United Airlines will only take U.S. citizens.
Durhan said there has been no help, guidance or direction from the Canadian government or consulate office.
“I’m not looking for a free ride here. What I would like the Canadian government to do is exactly what the US government did,” said Durhan.
“They have United Airlines taking only U.S. citizens. Why can’t Canada do the same thing with Air Canada? There are Air Canada planes sitting at Heathrow Airport. Why can’t they do the exact same thing and say only Canadian residents can board the plane and go back home?”
Global Affairs Canada says there are no plans to offer repatriation or assisted departure flights.
In a statement to CBC News, it said it is aware of Canadians abroad seeking to return to Canada.
The government of Canada has advised against non-essential travel outside of Canada since March 13, 2020.
But Global Affairs Canada says it continues to monitor the situation closely.
“The Canadian consulate basically told me I’m on my own,” said Durhan. “The Canadian government is leaving its own citizens completely stranded.”
Canadian politicians struggle to come to grips with the global vaccine race – CBC.ca
The global scramble to vaccinate the human race against COVID-19 is bigger than Canadian politics. But every Canadian politician no doubt understands the political and human importance of this country seeming to do well in this multinational competition.
The result this week is anxiety and a rush to assign blame that has failed to produce easy answers to the central question of what, if anything, Canadian officials could be doing to procure more of what’s arguably the most precious commodity on Earth.
But this consternation among Canadian politicians might be obscuring a bigger question for the world: Is this really the best way to go about vaccinating 7.6 billion people against a common threat?
The latest spasm of concern about Canada’s vaccine supply can be traced to a production facility in Puurs, Belgium, where Pfizer has been manufacturing one of the two approved vaccines for use in Canada. Pfizer has decided to retool that facility so that it can increase production. In the short-term, that means fewer doses will be available.
In response to Pfizer’s change of plans, Ontario Premier Doug Ford quickly declared that, if he were prime minister, he’d be on the phone to Pfizer’s top executive demanding the previously scheduled shipments. “I’d be up that guy’s ying-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” Ford said.
WATCH | Ontario premier says Trudeau’s ‘No. 1 job’ is to get vaccines:
It stands to reason that if getting a plentiful supply of the Pfizer vaccine was as easy as getting up Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla’s ying-yang with a firecracker, nearly every leader on the planet would be doing so. But Ford got a chance to test his theory — a day later he spoke with the president of Pfizer Canada. If a firecracker was lit during that conversation, it has so far failed to change Pfizer’s plans.
The Conservatives argue that an ill-fated partnership between the National Research Council and China’s CanSino Biologics distracted Justin Trudeau’s government from pursuing better options — but Public Services Minister Anita Anand told the Canadian Press in December that Canada was the fourth country in the world to sign a contract with Pfizer and the first to sign with Moderna, the other major supplier of an approved vaccine.
The New Democrats argue that the federal government should have negotiated for the right to domestically produce the currently approved vaccines — but that presumably depends in large part on the willingness of companies like Moderna and Pfizer to do so.
A real effort to ensure Canada had domestic capacity to produce a pandemic vaccine likely would have had to have been implemented years ago.
Little control over vaccine supply
Eventually, Tuesday night’s debate landed on questions of transparency. The government says it has a plan for vaccinating Canadians, but the opposition says that plan isn’t detailed enough.
The opposition insists the government should release the details of the contracts it has signed with manufacturers, but the government says those contracts are necessarily confidential. There are suggestions that Europe’s supply of the Pfizer vaccine might be smaller than the interruption to Canada’s supply, but it’s not clear why that might be the case.
The Liberals surely understand the gravity of the vaccine race, but they have never shown much interest in explaining themselves in detail. They insist that their agreements with seven potential manufacturers have put Canada in a decent position and that their medium-term and long-term targets for vaccinating Canadians over the course of this year will not be affected by the current shortfall.
WATCH | EU threatens to slow vaccine exports, increasing concerns about vaccine nationalism:
But Pfizer’s decision to retool the plant in Puurs underlines how little control the Liberal government can claim to have over the situation and how little sympathy they’ll receive if things don’t work out the way they said they would.
It was just over a month ago that the federal government was able to answer a previous panic with earlier-than-expected approvals and shipments of the new vaccine. If the Liberals were only too happy to bask in that good news, this interruption feels like the universe’s way of telling them to not get cocky.
Canada vs. other countries
In the meantime, even the definition of success will be up for debate.
On Monday, for instance, Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus complained that Canada was not doing as well as the Seychelles, which had delivered at least a first dose to 20.22 per cent of its population through January 25. By comparison, Canada’s rate of vaccination was 2.23 per cent.
But the tiny island nation has a population of 98,000 people (roughly the equivalent of Red Deer, Alta). In absolute terms, the number of people who had received a dose in the Seychelles was 19,889. Canada, meanwhile, had administered doses to 839,949 people.
WATCH | Ottawa offers assurances about COVID-19 vaccine supply:
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland countered that Canada was ahead of Germany, France, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. But three of those countries — Japan, Australia and New Zealand — haven’t yet begun their vaccination programs. And in two of those countries — Australia and New Zealand — COVID-19 is almost non-existent.
‘This is pure nonsense’
During the emergency debate on Tuesday night, the NDP’s Don Davies said Canada ranked 16th per capita in doses administered. He meant it as a complaint. But it could just as easily be framed as a compliment — if Canada ends up being the 16th fastest country to vaccinate its population, it will have finished ahead of 174 other countries. Among the 32 OECD countries who have begun vaccinations, Canada ranks 12th in doses administered per capita.
A few countries — the United States, United Kingdom and Israel — seem to be benefiting from their own unique circumstances. The U.S. and U.K., for instance, have access to domestic production of the available vaccines.
In every other country, there might be some version of the Canadian debate playing out; Trudeau said last week that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had commiserated about the similar criticism that they were each facing.
WATCH | COVID’s one year anniversary in Canada:
But all of this might underline the questions of whether an every-country-for-itself scramble to acquire vaccines from a limited number of private manufacturers is the sensible way to go about vaccinating the human race.
“‘Could Canada have done more?’ The problem for me is that this is not the right question. What we’ve been seeing, for me, is a bit of a catastrophe,” said Marc-Andre Gagnon, a political science professor at Carleton University who focuses on pharmaceutical policy.
“You end up with a handful of companies that are developing their own vaccines, each by themselves, working in silos. So then you have a product with a patent, so monopoly rights on the product. And then you end up with this vaccine nationalism of all countries basically doing a free market negotiation in terms of who can jump the queue in order to get faster access to the vaccines. In terms of priorities of global public health, this is pure nonsense.”
A better approach, Gagnon suggests, would have focused on collaboration, data sharing and making use of all available manufacturing capacity around the world.
Pfizer’s new deal with Sanofi, a rival producer, might at least be a step in that direction. But any serious rethinking of global vaccination policy might have to wait for the next pandemic.
Canada Post employee dies after contracting COVID-19 amid major outbreak at Mississauga facility – CTV Toronto
A Canada Post employee infected with COVID-19 during an outbreak that has impacted 224 workers at a Mississauga, Ont., facility died over the weekend, the union representing workers said.
Canadian Union of Postal Workers Toronto local president Qaiser Maroof told CP24 the employee at the Gateway East plant died on Monday.
He said the man worked nights on “Shift 1” at the Gateway East plant.
He was tested on Jan. 19 and isolated at home after his test.
Between the start of January and today, 224 workers at the facility have tested positive for coronavirus infection.
The spread at the 4,500-worker facility got so bad this month that 100 Canada Border Services Agency guards assigned to inspect packages at the facility were instructed to stay away.
More than 350 workers – an entire shift of workers in one area of the facility – were sent home to self-isolate last week as Peel Public Health sought to slow the spread of infection in the facility.
Maroof said the deceased employee was not part of the shift sent home to self-isolate, and sought out testing on his own.
He did not show symptoms prior to his test and was upset that he was not offered a test as a proactive measure, Maroof recalled.
“It is an unnecessary loss of life and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,” Maroof said in a statement. “This tragedy underscores why we have been insisting to the government that the postal workers are indeed frontline workers.”
Employees told CP24 news of death was shared informally with some workers on Tuesday.
Chief Medical Officer of Health for Peel Region Dr. Lawrence Loh would not comment on the death when asked Wednesday.
He said that rapid tests were used to detect cases at Gateway East.
Maroof said he did not know whether the man was hospitalized prior to his death or where in the GTA he passed away.
The man’s wife also works for Canada Post, at a Toronto facility on Eastern Avenue.
Canada Post did not comment on the death when asked Wednesday, only saying that the outbreak was impacting parcel processing speeds at the facility.
A previous headline said the employee died of COVID-19. While the worker had tested positive for the disease, it has not yet been confirmed if it was the cause of death.
Could zero-waste shopping be the solution to Canada’s plastic packaging issue? – Global News
When you walk into The Tare Shop, you’ll notice one thing that sets it apart from other stores: no plastic bags or containers in sight.
When Kate Pepler opened her flagship store in Halifax’s north end three years ago, it was hailed as Nova Scotia’s first completely package-free bulk store.
“After announcing the business in Jan. 2018, I was flooded with messages from folks from all over Nova Scotia saying how excited they were to finally be able to shop at a package-free place,” Pepler tells Global News.
“You bring in your own containers and we encourage folks to reuse what they have.”
Love Your Local: The Tare Shop
It’s a business model that has seen so much success, the 27-year-old entrepreneur just opened up her second location on Portland St. in downtown Dartmouth.
“It’s really encouraging to see. It definitely feels like this way of shopping is catching on and is growing,” says Pepler.
She says she’s seen more customers — particularly new customers — during the coronavirus pandemic: an increase of about 30 to 40 per cent each month.
It’s a surge in new customers that doesn’t come as a surprise to Sylvain Charlebois, a Dalhousie University professor who studies Canadian food trends and habits.
“We do waste a lot of food and our lifestyles have changed since the start of COVID,” he says.
Coronavirus: Soaring reliance on single-use plastics stalls zero-waste movement
“There are reports that suggest that we are wasting more than ever, especially when it comes to packaging, so I’m not surprised that more and more people are conscious about this issue and they’re willing to do something about it.”
And just how much work Canadians are willing to put in to their shopping trips to help the environment could depend on where they live, according to Charlebois.
“We conducted a study last year about food waste awareness or packaging waste awareness, and awareness levels on both coasts in Canada were higher than say, in the prairies, Ontario or Quebec. That’s probably because we can actually see the problem, they see things on the beach, they see things in parks. So I’m not surprised to see this movement actually getting some traction in our region,” he says.
But, he says, while it may be a solution for some, he doesn’t believe a package-free shopping model will solve Canada’s food waste issue, as plastics have become a “safety net” for consumers.
“I do think that there is a good market for shops like that, but not for the masses. Everything that you have to do to visit these shops require more time. It’s a lot of work. The key is to save the planet, with convenient solutions for consumers,” Charlebois says.
He says during the pandemic, people simply aren’t focused on sustainability issues as public health takes centre stage. That said, Charlebois expects the focus to shift back to environmental issues soon.
“We need to change behaviours as quickly as possible because right now, parks and oceans don’t care about the pandemic. The problem is still there,” Charlebois says.
That is what motivates Pepler, who says she is happy to cater to those who are willing to put in the work today.
“It definitely can get very frustrating walking into a grocery store and not being given an option for a lower-waste or a plastic-free option. We can make these small changes in our lives, but we have to go one step further and push those big businesses and manufacturers and producers to take responsibility for their packaging and offer more sustainable solutions that are also economical,” she says.
“It’s been really great to be able to still provide folks with a safe way to shop a lower waste lifestyle, because, we are in a time of crisis, not just COVID-19, but the climate change and the plastic problem. We need to act, and we need to act now.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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