The United States will require airline passengers from the United Kingdom to test negative for COVID-19 before their flight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced late Thursday.
The U.S. is the latest country to announce new travel restrictions because of a new variant of the coronavirus that is spreading in Britain and elsewhere.
Airline passengers from the U.K. will need to get negative COVID-19 tests within three days of their trip and provide the results to the airline, the CDC said in a statement. The agency said the order will be signed Friday and go into effect on Monday.
“If a passenger chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger,” the CDC said in its statement.
The agency said because of travel restrictions in place since March, air travel to the U.S. from the U.K. is already down by 90 per cent.
Last weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant of the coronavirus seemed to spread more easily than earlier ones and was moving rapidly through England. But Johnson stressed “there’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness,” or that vaccines will be less effective against it.
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This week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said three airlines with flights from London to New York — British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic — had agreed to require passengers to take a COVID-19 test before getting on the plane. United Airlines on Thursday agreed to do the same for its flights to Newark, N.J.
Britain has been under considerable pressure since word of the new variant of the virus was made public. Some 40 countries imposed travel bans on Britain, leaving the island nation increasingly isolated.
On Christmas Day, about 1,000 British soldiers were clearing a backlog of truck drivers stuck in southeast England after France briefly closed its border to the U.K. then demanded coronavirus tests from all amid fears of the new virus variant.
Even as 4,000 international truck drivers spent yet another day cooped up in their cabs, some progress was evident Friday, with traffic around the English Channel port of Dover moving in an orderly fashion toward the extra ferries that were put on to make the short crossing across to Calais in northern France.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities have ordered those arriving from the U.K. to quarantine for two weeks, after the country suspended direct flights from the U.K. earlier this week.
The order from the Rospotrebnadzor sanitary safety agency posted Friday on the portal of official information obliges all those travelling from the U.K. to remain in isolation for 14 days after their arrival in Russia. The measure is effective starting Saturday.
What’s happening in Canada
As of Friday morning, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 535,243, with 76,459 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 14,720.
The first shipment carrying doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Canada on Thursday afternoon, just over 24 hours after Health Canada authorized the vaccine for use in people over the age of 18.
The shipment contains a portion of the 168,000 doses expected to arrive before the end of the year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, along with a photo of a FedEx plane being unloaded at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
“This is another big step in our national vaccine rollout,” Trudeau said. “But it doesn’t mean we can let up just yet. The vaccine won’t help you if you get sick now.”
The first doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Canada. These are part of the 168,000 doses we’ll be getting before the end of the month, and part of the 40 million doses we’re guaranteed from Moderna overall. <a href=”https://t.co/eKhQ6v8xSA”>pic.twitter.com/eKhQ6v8xSA</a>
Canada on Thursday also expanded enhanced screening and monitoring measures for travellers arriving from South Africa, citing the rise of a more infectious variant of the coronavirus in that country, similar to one that has emerged in the U.K.
This followed a move on Wednesday by Trudeau to extend to Jan. 6 a ban on passenger flights arriving from the U.K., citing the variant.
No cases of the variants have been found in Canada so far, Health Canada said in a release, noting it had tested over 25,000 samples. “All travellers who have been in the United Kingdom or South Africa within the period of 14 days before the day on which they seek entry into Canada will be subject to secondary screening and enhanced measures,” Health Canada said.
Those measures include “increased scrutiny of quarantine plans,” it said.
Canada also updated travel advisories for both the U.K. and South Africa to advise extra caution. Health officials continue to advise against all non-essential international travel.
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COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise across Canada, with the two most populous provinces both posting record highs in new cases on Thursday.
In Ontario, where a provincewide lockdown is set to take effect after midnight on Boxing Day, Premier Doug Ford urged people to stay home.
“I know the lockdown starts on December 26 — but I have to tell you, folks, every time you take a trip it puts people in jeopardy,” he said. “So please, as of right now, please stay at home when you can.”
Ontario on Thursday reported 2,447 new cases of coronavirus and 49 additional deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 4,278. Hospitalizations stood at 967, with 277 COVID-19 patients in Ontario’s intensive care units, according to provincial data.
Meanwhile, Quebec reported a single-day record of 2,349 new cases on Thursday. Health officials in the province also reported 46 deaths, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,913. Hospitalizations stood at 1,052 with 146 people in ICUs, according to a provincial database.
Projections released by a government research centre — the Institut national d’excellence en santé et services sociaux (INESSS) — showed hospitals in Montreal are rapidly using up the space they have allotted for COVID-19 patients and could run out of beds by Jan. 12.
The projections, released weekly, noted that hospitalizations have more than doubled in the Montreal area over the past month.
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What’s happening around the world
As of 11:45 a.m. ET on Friday, more than 79.5 million coronavirus cases had been reported worldwide, with more than 44.8 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The global death toll stood at more than 1.7 million.
In the Americas, U.S. President Donald Trump spent his Christmas Eve golfing in Florida after making a last-minute demand that threatens to blow up a massive COVID relief and government funding bill and force a government shutdown in the midst of the pandemic. Failure to agree on the bill could deny cheques to millions of Americans on the brink.
Trump’s departure to his Palm Beach golf club came as Washington was still reeling over his surprise, eleventh-hour request that an end-of-year spending bill that congressional leaders spent months negotiating give most Americans $2,000 US COVID relief cheques — far more than the $600 members of his own party had agreed to.
The idea was swiftly rejected by House Republicans during a rare Christmas Eve session, leaving the proposal in limbo.
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro used his Christmas message to cast more doubt on a coronavirus vaccine purchased by one of the country’s states from Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac.
In his live broadcast on social media Thursday, Bolsonaro said “the efficacy of that vaccine of Sao Paulo seems to be very low,” though he gave nothing specific. Sao Paulo health authorities have not presented complete trial results a week after announcing that there were encouraging Phase 3 studies on the shot’s effectiveness.
In Europe, Queen Elizabeth released her annual Christmas message in which she acknowledged the “difficult and unpredictable times” while paying tribute to front-line workers and young people who have helped their communities during the pandemic.
With infection rates soaring in recent weeks and many hospitals nearing their capacities, the British government on Dec. 19 cancelled Christmas gatherings and festive shopping for millions in a bid to control the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis made a Christmas Day plea for authorities to make COVID-19 vaccines available to all, insisting that the first in line should be the most vulnerable and needy, regardless of who holds the patents for the shots.
“Vaccines for everybody, especially for the most vulnerable and needy,” who should be first in line, Francis said in off-the-cuff remarks from his prepared text, calling the development of such vaccines “light of hope” for the world.
Amid a surge of coronavirus infections this fall in Italy, Francis broke with tradition for Christmas. Instead of delivering his Urbi et Orbi speech — Latin for “to the city and to the world” — from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, he read it from inside a cavernous hall at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, flanked by two Christmas trees with blinking lights.
In Asia, Japan’s Health Ministry has confirmed the country’s first cases of infection with the new variant of the coronavirus that was identified in Britain.
The five people arrived between Dec. 18 and Dec. 21, before Japan stepped up border control on Friday for entrants from Britain. A man in his 60s developed fatigue, but the other four were without symptoms. Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said they were sent to quarantine straight from the airports.
Christmas Day has brought South Korea its biggest daily increase in coronavirus infections of the pandemic as officials urged for citizen vigilance to help curb a viral surge that has worsened hospitalization and deaths.
The 1,241 new confirmed cases reported Friday raised the country’s total to 54,770. Officials said 17 more people had died from COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 773.
Authorities in China’s northeastern port city of Dalian are testing millions of residents after seven new coronavirus cases were reported there in the last 24 hours.
The cluster that has emerged in recent days has grown to 12 cases. In five neighbourhood divisions, authorities have shut schools and public spaces and are restricting anyone but essential workers from leaving their residential compounds.
In Africa, at least 15 people have died in recent weeks on the South African side of the Beitbridge border with Zimbabwe in lengthy queues that have been slowed by coronavirus screening, television news channel eNCA said on Friday.
The Health Ministry, Department of Home Affairs and South African police did not respond immediately to Reuters’s requests on Friday for confirmation of fatalities that local media outlets attributed to exhaustion and ill health owing to a lack of facilities while waiting to cross the border, sometimes for days.
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)
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)
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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