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Coronavirus cases are rising again in some countries. What can Canada learn? –



New coronavirus hotspots are unfolding around the world — some of which are in countries once lauded for containing the spread.

Experts have long warned that the green light to reopen can become a red light at any time.

For places like Australia and Spain, as well as a number of spots in Asia, that’s exactly what’s happening.

“These countries are an example,” said Zahid Butt, a University of Waterloo professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems. “We need to look at them and think, ‘What will happen in Canada?’”

Read more:
Global coronavirus cases are on the rise. But not everywhere.


Australia once prided itself on rapidly containing COVID-19.

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The country implemented a ban on travellers from high-risk areas in February and closed borders to non-citizens in March. Later that month, schools, bars and other public places were closed and physical-distancing rules rolled out. Mask-wearing was also widely accepted, according to experts.

The strategy paid off at first.

By May, the country had successfully brought down its national daily case numbers to single digits, data shows, prompting the country to reopen. Principal health guidelines stayed put, but everything from schools to bars and restaurants to workplaces reopened nearly simultaneously.

Coronavirus: Australia looks to restrict return of citizens abroad amid new outbreak

Coronavirus: Australia looks to restrict return of citizens abroad amid new outbreak

That likely worked against Australia to some degree, according to Butt.

“They reopened everything and suddenly they started to see a rise in cases. It’s really a lesson-learned situation,” he said. “It’s definitely a lesson Canada can learn from, as well.”

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The drop in cases also ushered in the revival of domestic travel and the return of Australian citizens and permanent residents, many via air travel.

“That’s the bigger risk with this whole thing,” Butt said.

While there were pockets of new cases following reopening, hotspots — focused in Victoria and New South Wales — began in July.

Read more:
Coronavirus spread forcing some countries to rethink bars, schools and tourism

In Victoria’s capital, Melbourne, the outbreak is being blamed primarily on failures at quarantine hotels, where people who fly into Australia are required to complete a 14-day quarantine. Local reports suggest that private security personnel hired to maintain the hotel quarantine rules were improperly trained and are accused of rule-breaking. It’s believed the infection then spread from hotels to the community.

On July 31, Victoria reported 627 new infections. The state now accounts for about 60 per cent of the country’s 16,900 cases.

Canada also as a mandatory 14-day quarantine order and will provide accommodation in a hotel if required. While some travellers have been charged for breaking those rules, there have been no known outbreaks connected to the rule-breaking.

“It’s very geographically specific,” said Thomas Tenkate, a Ryerson University occupational health professor, who is originally from Australia. “So I think allowing travel to occur between areas that have a low number of cases is fine, but areas with much higher numbers, there needs to be more caution.”

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Spain has ping-ponged on containment.

It was dubbed Europe’s new epicentre for COVID-19 in April after cases surged.

Coronavirus: Concerns rising in Europe over new spike in cases

Coronavirus: Concerns rising in Europe over new spike in cases

Spain operated under a four-stage plan for easing one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. On June 1, about 70 per cent of the country moved to a second phase. Hotspots, like Madrid and Barcelona, stayed under tighter Phase 1 restrictions.

The national lockdown was officially lifted on June 21.

While masks and physical distancing continue to be compulsory, the move restored freedom of movement and allowed bars, restaurants and other spaces to reopen.

Many new cases are tied to nightclubs, discotheques and other social venues that were given the all-clear. In Canada, outbreaks have also stemmed from the reopening of bars in some provinces, with young people at the centre of the blame.

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“They’re coming from younger people going to these things and they’re passing it to their parents and grandparents,” Butt said. “It’s a combination of reasons.”

Like Australia, Spain’s reopening plan also paved the way for some certain degrees of travel to resume.

Read more:
Growing coronavirus outbreaks lead some countries to reconsider tourism push

Spain, like many other countries, wanted to kick-start the economy through tourism. Dr. Jacob Mendioroz, the director and co-ordinator of the committee responding to the coronavirus in Catalonia, told Time reopening the economy to tourism may have been “rushed.”

This is where they may have gone wrong, according to Butt.

“Regional travel there is a risk, but it’s more of a risk with international travel and tourism,” he said. “You are obviously going to see new cases when you reopen, but you need to balance things like the economy and the health of the population.”

Less than four weeks after lifting the lockdown, national health authorities warned that Spain could be heading for a “second wave” of the virus.

On July 30, the country reported 1,229 new coronavirus infections, topping 1,000 for the second day in a row. It marked the biggest rise since the national lockdown was lifted, and prompted authorities to re-tighten restrictions.

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Coronavirus: Spain reopens its borders to European tourists as state of emergency ends

Coronavirus: Spain reopens its borders to European tourists as state of emergency ends

Tenkate believes complacency plays a role here, too, as it likely does in other countries around the world seeing spikes, like the United States and parts of Asia.

“A lot comes down to the actions we take as individuals now,” he said. “We have a role as individuals to allow that reopening to be extended and be successful.”

What can Canada learn?

For one, reopening the U.S.-Canada border is not the right move at this point, said Butt.

“That will only risk a spillover of cases into Canada,” he said.

But looking to how Australia is managing its localized outbreaks, responding to hotspots with regional restrictions could be mimicked, Butt said.

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Read more:
Canada pushes back on U.S. Congress members’ call to reopen border amid coronavirus

He pointed to the “bubble” rule in Atlantic Canada, where residents from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island can travel freely between each province without needing to quarantine for 14 days upon entry.

“These are provinces that have little to no cases. That’s a way to boost local tourism without going too broad,” he said.

The approach ultimately needs to be co-ordinated as Canada continues to open up, said Tenkate.

“Lifting restrictions will always pose a risk,” he said. “Various agencies and levels of government will need to ensure that the messages are co-ordinated.”

Like Australia and Spain, Canada should recognize that it, too, will lock down again if needed, Butt and Tenkate agreed.

“There is no one-size-fits-all model to this,” Tenkate said.

— with files from Reuters and the Associated Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.

Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.

“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.

Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.

Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”

In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.

Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.

“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.

Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.


(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis



More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.

The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.

But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”

At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.

Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.

“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.

In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.

($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)

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Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants



Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.

Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.

“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.

Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.

Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.

“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.


(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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