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Coronavirus: The place in North America with no cases – BBC News

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Coronavirus: The place in North America with no cases

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By Jessica Murphy
BBC News, Toronto

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.css-14iz86j-BoldTextfont-weight:bold;Covid-19 cases are rising in many parts of Canada, but one region – Nunavut, a northern territory – is a rare place in North America that can say it’s free of coronavirus in its communities.

Last March, as borders around the world were slamming shut as coronavirus infections rose, officials in Nunavut decided they too would take no risks.

They brought in some of the strictest travel regulations in Canada, barring entry to almost all non-residents.

Residents returning home from the south would first have to spend two weeks, at the Nunavut government’s expense, in “isolation hubs” – hotels in the cities of Winnipeg, Yellowknife, Ottawa or Edmonton.

Security guards are stationed throughout the hotels, and nurses check in on the health of those isolating. To date, just over 7,000 Nunavummiut have spent time in these hubs as a stopover on their return home.

It’s not been without challenges. People have been caught breaking isolation and have had stays extended, which has in part contributed to occasional waiting times to enter the some of the hubs. There have been complaints about the food available to those confined there.

But, as coronavirus infections spread throughout Canada, and with the number of cases on the rise again, the official case count in Nunavut remains zero.

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Graph of daily cases and deaths in Canada, showing recent uptick

The “fairly drastic” decision to bring in these measures was made both due to the population’s potential vulnerability to Covid-19 and the unique challenges of the Arctic region, says Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr Michael Patterson.

About 36,000 people live in Nunavut, bound by the Arctic Ocean to the north and the Northwest Territories to the west, in 25 communities scattered across its two million square kilometres (809,000 square miles). That’s about three times the size of Texas.

The distances are “mind-boggling at times”, admits Dr Patterson.

Natural isolation is likely to be part of the reason for the lack of cases – those communities can only be reached year-round by plane.

A general view of Sylvia Grinnel Territorial Park on 29 June 2017 in Iqaluit, Canada.

image copyrightGetty Images

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In late September, there was an outbreak linked to workers who flew in from the south to a remote gold mine 160km (100 miles) from the Arctic Circle.

(Those cases are currently being counted as infections in the miners’ home jurisdictions, keeping the territory’s official case count at nil).

That outbreak has “almost no chance” of spreading in the community because there hasn’t been any travel between the mine and any of the communities for months, says Dr Patterson.

But while isolation can help, it can also create hurdles.

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  • The superpower fight for internet near the Arctic

Most communities don’t have the capacity to do Covid-19 testing locally, so tests have to be flown in and out.

Early on, tests results could take a week, meaning “you’re really, really far behind by the time you can identify and respond”, Dr Patterson says. There are efforts under way to boost testing capacity and turnaround times for results in the territory.

There are also limited medical resources in the north. The 35-bed acute care Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit, the capital, could handle about 20 Covid-19 patients, Dr Patterson estimates.

In the case of an outbreak, “those people who need treatment, or need admission, many of them will wind up having to go south and so that will another load on our Medivac system”.

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A map of Canada showing coronavirus cases by province

Many Inuit communities – in Nunavut and elsewhere – are potentially at much higher risk.

There are a few factors at play, including inadequate and unsafe housing conditions and high rates of overcrowding, an all too common reality in the territory.

The high prevalence of tuberculosis is another concern.

Inuit, who make up over 80% of the territory’s population, are a high-risk group in general for respiratory infections, including tuberculosis, says Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national advocacy group.

Inuit are nearly 300 times more likely to get tuberculosis than non-indigenous Canadians.

His own family experience with the respiratory illness brought home the potential dangers of Covid-19 for Ian Kanayuk.

The 20-year-old student and his mother came down with it a few years ago. He spent nine months on medication, his mother had a lengthy hospital stay.

Both are fine now but “it was really serious”, he says.

So he’s in favour of the social distancing measures, limits on gatherings, and the mask rules that are in place across the territory despite the lack of cases.

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Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, Nunavut,

image copyrightAlamy

Dr Patterson says those are still necessary because “even though the hubs are there, the hubs aren’t perfect”. There are also some exemptions to the mandatory out-of-territory isolation, for example for certain critical workers.

So even with no community cases, the pandemic has touched the territory in ways that will be similar to people living throughout Canada.

Mr Kanayuk, like college students in many parts of the world, is disappointed to be studying remotely from his home in Iqaluit, and not in Ottawa, the national capital, where he had plans to attend in-person Nunavut Sivuniksavut, a programme for Inuit youth from across the country.

“It’s disheartening to not be able to go down”, he says. Then there’s the added challenge that slow internet speeds in the territory place on remote learning.

The pandemic has also overwhelmed an already strained mail system, leading to frustrations over length queues to pick up packages.

Inuit children on Baffin Island

image copyrightAlamy

The Iqaluit post office was already one of the busiest in Canada, since so many residents depend on Amazon’s free delivery to the Arctic city.

That post office has seen a spike in the number of parcels during the pandemic “beyond anything we could have anticipated”, Canada Post said in a statement.

Since the strict measures came into force in Nunavut in March, there has been some relaxing of regulations.

With some conditions, Nunavummiut can now travel to the Northwest Territories and back without isolating, as can people going to Churchill, Manitoba for medical treatment.

But there needs to be measures in place to limit contagion when the virus does make its way to Nunavut, says Dr Patterson, who doesn’t think it will be free of Covid-19 forever.

Graph comparing Canada coronavirus case load with the US and Europe

“No. Not indefinitely,” he says, “I wouldn’t have bet that it would stay this way for this long.”

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How is the rest of Canada doing?

Canada as a whole managed to stem the tide of the outbreak over the summer months, through full lockdowns in spring to a reopening over the summer.

As of late last week, there had been 191,732 cases nationwide and 9,699 deaths.

But with colder weather approaching, infections have been climbing sharply in many parts of the country, driven by the highly populated provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

A woman in a mask walks through downtown Toronto, 7 October, 2020

image copyrightNurPhoto via Getty IMages

The average number of people sent to hospital each day is also rising in the places with the most cases, and health officials have warned a major surge still has the potential to overwhelm the healthcare system. Additionally, infections have begun making their way back into long-term care homes.

Parts of Ontario and Quebec have brought back some lockdown measures as they try to bring infections under control, pressing pause on such things as indoor dining and gyms in hotspots like Montreal and Toronto.

Other parts of Canada are fairing better.

Atlantic Canada, the four provinces east of Quebec, has been able to limit community spread and has implemented a travel bubble, with free movement for residents and strict 14-day isolation orders for outside travellers.

The country is still lagging in testing capacity, and has experienced long queues and slow turnarounds for results in some areas as children returned to school.

About 77,000 Canadians are being tested daily, but the goal is to be able to test up to 200,000 daily nationwide.

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Here's what Canada did while you were sleeping on day 13 of Tokyo Olympics – CTV News

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HALIBURTON, ONT. —
Canada added two medals to its collection overnight on day 13, bringing home silver in women’s canoe sprint and a bronze in women’s cycling.

Here’s a look at some of the 2020 Summer Olympic events you may have missed overnight.

Cycling

Lauriane Genest

Lauriane Genest won Canada’s first-ever medal in the keirin, capturing bronze in the event. New Zealand’s Ellesse Andrews took silver while Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands captured gold.

The keirin is an eight-lap race amongst six cyclists who start the race following behind a motorized pace bike, as it accelerates to top speed of 50 km/hr. The pace bike moves off the track with two laps to go before cyclists jockey for positions to finish the race.

On the water

Canada's Laurence Vincent-Lapointe

Canada’s Laurence Vincent-Lapointe captured canoe sprint silver in the women’s C-1 200-metre race on Thursday, taking second place in 46.786 seconds. American Nevin Harrison took the gold with a time of 45.932, while Ukraine’s Liudmyla Luzan claimed bronze at Sea Forest Waterway. Canadian teammate Katie Vincent finished eighth in 47.834 seconds.

Decathlon

Canada's Damian Warner

Damian Warner is inching closer to the top of the podium, continuing to hold a commanding lead in the decathlon with only two events left to complete. The Canadian posted an Olympic decathlon record of 13.46 seconds in the 110-metre hurdles before going on to place third in discus. Warner also tied a personal best in pole vault after clearing 4.90 metres on Thursday.

Warner leads with just javelin and the 1,500 metre left in the competition. Australian Ashley Moloney sits in second place while fellow Canadian Pierce LePage rounds out the top three. The last two events are set for later Thursday.

Diving

Canada's Meaghan Benfeito

Canada’s medal chances were dashed after Meaghan Benfeito failed to qualify for 10-metre platform diving final. The 32-year-old missed the 12th and final qualifying spot on her fourth dive of the day, finishing in the 13th spot, wrapping up her time at the Tokyo Olympics.

On the track

Canada's Andre De Grasse

The Canadian men’s 4×100-metre relay team is off to the finals after sprinter Andre De Grasse made a late comeback for the team, crossing the finish line in second place, just hours after winning himself a gold medal in the 200-metre sprint.

Golf

Brooke Henderson

Canada’s Brooke Henderson had a better day on the course, bouncing back to shoot a 3-under 68 in the second round of the women’s golf tournament. Henderson is currently tied for the 34th spot, sitting at even par.

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The cost of down payments in Canadian cities skyrocketed in 2021, new data shows – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Skyrocketing housing prices in 2021 are driving up how long it would take for homebuyers to save for a down payment, new data shows.

The National Bank of Canada (NBC)’s latest report found that during the second quarter of 2021, housing affordability has worsened by the widest margin in 27 years. The report examined housing and mortgage trends in 10 cities across the country.

To save up enough for a down payment for an average home in Canada, it would take just short of six years – or 69 months – if you saved at a rate of 10 per cent of their median pre-tax household income.

This marked a notable jump compared to the 57 months of saving at that same rate this time last year.

And, if you live in Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto, it could take decades – assuming you put away 10 per cent of your before-tax household income.

Here’s a breakdown of how much time it would take to save up for a down payment for an average home or condo, if you saved a tenth of your pre-tax income:

Vancouver

  • Standing head and shoulders above the other cities, it would take a staggering 34 years – or 411 months – of saving to be able to afford a home here.
  • The average home here costs $1.47 million.
  • It would take just under five years – 57 months — to save up enough for a down payment on an average condo in Vancouver.

Victoria

  • An estimated 28 years, or 338 months, of saving to make a down payment for a non-condo home, with the total price of a representative home set at $1.03M.
  • It would take 47 months of saving to afford a condo down payment.

Toronto,

Toronto

  • To save enough for a down payment for a home here would take 26.5 years – or 318 months.
  • The average home here costs approximately $1.2 million.
  • To afford a condo down payment here would take just under five years, or 56 months.

Hamilton

  • At a 10-per-cent saving rate, you’re looking at 6.5 years of saving up to afford a down payment for a home — and around four years to afford a condo in this city.

Ottawa/Gatineau

  • Trying to save up a home down payment in Canada’s capital could take a little over four years.

Montreal

Montreal

  • Saving up a tenth of your pre-tax earnings for 3.5 years would mean you could afford a down payment on a representative home in Montreal
  • The total price tag of a non-condo home sits at $492,777.
  • Trying to afford a condo here could take you just a little more than two and a half years of saving.

Calgary

  • You’d need to save up for just under three years – or 34 months – to afford a home here, or about half that time to afford a condo.

Edmonton

  • Potential homebuyers were looking at 2.5 years – or 30 months – of saving if you’re looking to make a down payment on a non-condo home.
  • The average total cost of a non-condo home was $428,600.

Winnipeg

Winnipeg

  • Affording a down payment on a $370,000 home could take homebuyers about 2.3 years worth of saving.
  • Home buyers needed 18 months to save up a down payment on a condo.

Quebec City

  • The price of a representative home in Quebec’s capital is $330 742 and it would take the average Canadian household just over two years – or 28 months — to save up a down payment.

Researchers also found mortgage payments now make up 45 per cent of the income for a representative household, slightly above the average amount (43 per cent of income) needed in 1980.

NBC noted that during most of the past two years, income growth and lower interest rates have been conducive to improving affordability.

But 2021 has been a stark contrast, the bank said, with home price increases outpacing income growth and mortgage interest rates also rising.

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Countries making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory

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A sharp upturn in new coronavirus infections due to the highly contagious Delta variant and a slowdown in vaccination rates have pushed governments to make COVID-19 shots mandatory for health workers and other high-risk groups.

A growing number of countries also stipulate that a shot, or a negative test, will be needed for dining out, among other activities.

Here are some countries’ vaccine mandates:

AUSTRALIA

Australia decided in late June to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for high-risk aged-care workers and employees in quarantine hotels.

It has also made vaccinations obligatory for Paralympic athletes heading to Tokyo because unvaccinated members on the team could pose a health risk.

BRITAIN

It will be mandatory for care home workers in England to have coronavirus vaccinations from October.

English nightclubs and other venues with large crowds will require patrons to present proof of full vaccination from the end of September.

CANADA

Canada‘s Treasury Board Secretariat said on July 20 it was considering whether COVID-19 vaccines should be required for certain roles and positions in the federal government, according to CBC News.

FRANCE

The French parliament on Aug. 2 approved a bill which will make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health workers as well as require a bolstered health pass in many social venues.

The government said on July 19 that the planned 45,000 euro ($53,456) fine for businesses that do not check that clients have a health pass will be much lower, starting at up to 1,500 euros and increasing progressively for repeat offenders. Fines will not be imposed immediately.

GREECE

Greece on July 12 made vaccinations mandatory for nursing home staff with immediate effect and healthcare workers from September. As part of new measures, only vaccinated customers are allowed indoors in bars, cinemas, theatres and other closed spaces.

INDONESIA

Indonesia made COVID-19 inoculations mandatory in February, with the capital Jakarta threatening fines of up to 5 million rupiah ($357) for refusing.

ITALY

A decree approved by the Italian government in March mandates that health workers, including pharmacists, get vaccinated. Those who refuse could be suspended without pay for the rest of the year.

HUNGARY

Hungary’s government has decided to make vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told public radio on July 23.

KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakhstan will introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing for people working in groups of more than 20, the health ministry said on June 23.

LEBANON

Lebanon is to limit entry to restaurants, cafes, pubs and beaches to people holding vaccine certificates or those who have taken antibodies tests, the tourism ministry said on July 30. Non-vaccinated employees of these establishments would be required to conduct a PCR test every 72 hours.

MALTA

Malta banned visitors from entering the country from July 14 unless they are fully vaccinated.

POLAND

Poland could make vaccinations obligatory for some people at high risk from COVID-19 from August.

RUSSIA

The Russian capital has unveiled a plan https://bit.ly/2TWsroN requiring 60% of all service sector workers to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15, according to the Moscow Times.

Moscow residents no longer have to present a QR code demonstrating they have been vaccinated or have immunity in order to sit in cafes, restaurants and bars from July 19.

SAUDI ARABIA

In May, Saudi Arabia mandated all public and private sector workers wishing to attend a workplace get vaccinated, without specifying when this would be implemented.

Vaccination will also be required to enter any governmental, private, or educational establishments and to use public transportation as of Aug. 1.

Saudi citizens will need two vaccine doses before they can travel outside the kingdom from Aug. 9, state news agency SPA reported on July 19, citing the ministry of interior.

TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry said on July 7 it was making vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over.

UNITED STATES

U.S. President Joe Biden announced on July 29 that all civilian federal workers will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and travel limits, a source familiar with the matter said.

New York City will become the first major U.S. city to require, from Sept. 13, proof of vaccination for customers and staff at restaurants, gyms and other indoor businesses as the country enters a new phase of battling the Delta variant.

New York will require state employees to be vaccinated or get tested weekly, a mandate that will go into effect on Sept. 6, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will require their workers to get the vaccine or get tested weekly, Cuomo said on Aug. 2.

New Jersey state health care workers and employees who work in jails must by vaccinated by Sept. 7 or face testing twice a week.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said that all state employees would be ordered to get vaccinated starting Aug. 2 or undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week.

Denver municipal employees and people working in high-risk settings in the city will be required to get vaccinated, Mayor Michael Hancock said on Aug. 2.

($1 = 0.8418 euros)

 

(Compiled by Paulina Cwikowska, Dagmarah Mackos and Oben Mumcuoglu; editing by Milla Nissi, Steve Orlofsky, Joe Bavier and Nick Macfie)

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