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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Friday – CBC.ca

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  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: Covid@cbc.ca

In Europe, protests erupted in Italy on Friday as one of the most stringent anti-coronavirus measures in Europe went into effect, requiring all workers, from magistrates to maids, to show a health pass to get into their place of employment.

Police were out in force, some schools ended classes early and embassies issued warnings of possible violence amid concerns that the anti-vaccination demonstrations could turn into riots, as they did in Rome last weekend.

But by day’s end, the protests appeared to have been largely peaceful, including one at Rome’s central Circus Maximus where some protesters gave police officers flowers in a sign they meant no harm.

The green pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months. Italy already required the pass to access all sorts of indoor environments, including restaurants, museums, theaters, and long-distance trains.

PHOTOS | Protests greet debut of workplace green pass in Italy:

But the addition of the workplace requirement has sparked heated debate and opposition in a country that was a coronavirus epicentre early in the pandemic but has kept the latest resurgence in check through continued mask mandates and one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe.

The new rule in a country that imposed the first COVID-19 lockdown and production shutdown in the West imposes a burden on worker and employer alike. Electronic scanners that can read cellphone QR codes with the green pass were set up at bigger places of employment, such as the office of Italian Premier Mario Draghi and the headquarters of state railway company Trenitalia.

Sanctions for employers who fail to check employees range from 400 to 1,000 euros ($575 to $1,437 Cdn). A worker who fails to show a valid pass is considered absent without justification and could face fines from 600 to 1,500 euros ($862 to $2,155 Cdn).

The aim of the requirement is to encourage vaccination rates to rise beyond the current 81 per cent of the population over age 12 who are fully inoculated. And if recent days are any indication, it was working: The number of first shots administered Thursday rose 34 per cent compared to the beginning of the week, Italy’s virus czar reported Friday.

But for those people who can’t or won’t get their shots, the expanded pass requirement imposes a burden of getting tested every 48 hours just to be able to go to work. People with a proven medical condition that prevents them being vaccinated are exempt.

A worker shows a green pass outside their workplace in Rome on Friday. The new measure requiring all Italian workers to show the COVID-19 health pass as proof of vaccination at their place of employment has sparked heated debate and opposition. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

Some employers are offering free tests at work, but the government has refused calls to make testing free across the board. Currently rapid tests run from eight euros ($11.50 Cdn) for children to 15 euros ($21.55 Cdn) for adults.

For some opponents, the requirement is disproportionate to the current need: Italy has kept the latest delta variant-fuelled resurgence largely under control through continued mask use and physical distancing, reporting around 67 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks.

But proponents say the requirement will keep workplaces safe and allow Italy’s economy, which shrank 8.9 per cent last year, to further rebound.


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Some Ontarians can now download QR vaccine certificates: 

Some Ontarians can now download QR code COVID-19 vaccine certificates

7 hours ago

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Friday people born between January and April can now download their COVID-19 vaccine certificate QR codes on the Ontario Health website. Those with birthdays between May and August can do so Oct. 16, and those born between September and December can do so as of Oct. 17. 1:17

  • P.E.I. logs 3 new cases, including a child under 12 years of age.
  • N.S. reports 18 new cases, bringing province’s active caseload to 199.

What’s happening around the world

As of Friday, more than 239.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.8 million.

In the Americas, hundreds of white flags were put up in front of Brazil’s Congress on Friday, to protest more than 600,000 COVID-19 deaths in the country — the second highest toll in the world behind the U.S.

An activist places white flags representing people who have died of COVID-19 outside Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, on Friday. (Eraldo Peres/The Associated Press)

In Asia, South Korean officials will partially ease virus restrictions in the hard-hit capital region starting next week to address a battered economy and pandemic fatigue.

In Africa, South Africa will start vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 17 next week using the Pfizer vaccine, the health minister said.

Elsewhere in Europe, COVID-19 tests in France are no longer free for unvaccinated adults unless they are prescribed by a doctor.

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Canadians, other foreigners will need COVID-19 test a day before flights to U.S. – CBC.ca

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The United States is making it mandatory next week for Canadians and other foreign visitors who arrive by air to get a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of their departure, regardless of their vaccination status, as part of a pandemic battle plan for the winter months.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced his administration’s plan on Thursday during a visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

The new travel rule on obtaining a negative COVID-19 test will take effect on Monday at 12:01 a.m. ET, sources briefed on the matter said.

Currently, international air travellers are required to get a test within 72 hours of leaving for the U.S. A senior White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity told CBC News that the new protocol will not apply to those crossing the Canada-U.S. land border.

“We’re pulling out all the stops to get people maximum protection from this pandemic,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a briefing on Thursday in advance of Biden’s afternoon announcement.

Passengers arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport In New York City on Nov. 8. By early next week, Canadians and all other foreign visitors who travel to the U.S. by air will need to get a COVID-19 test no later than 24 hours before their departure. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

“Our view and belief, and the belief of our medical team, is that we have the tools to keep people safe. We’re executing on a robust plan that builds off of all the actions we’ve taken to date — we are not starting from scratch here.”

Fully vaccinated travellers entering the U.S. by land from Canada currently do not need to present a negative COVID-19 test, as long as they show proof of vaccination or attest to their vaccination status upon request by a border agent. That rule has been in place since the land border reopened to non-essential travel on Nov. 8.

In Canada, all those entering the country must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test result, taken within 72 hours of arrival by land or air.

However, since Nov. 30, the rule has been adjusted for Canadians who depart and re-enter Canada within 72 hours, meaning those taking trips of that duration or shorter no longer need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to return home.

WATCH | Travel Insurance, trip planning and the omicron variant: 

Travel Insurance, trip planning and the omicron variant

Travel insurance consultant Martin Firestone lays out what travellers should know about the latest travel restrictions. 4:48

Under the U.S. plan to combat the spread of COVID-19 over the winter months, the Transportation Security Administration is extending its mask mandates on transit through March 18. Passengers on domestic flights, trains and public transportation will be required to continue wearing face masks.

Other components of the 10-point U.S. strategy include:

  • A plan to expand access to booster shots, with a comprehensive outreach effort to convince nearly 100 million eligible Americans to get one.
  • New family vaccination clinics to provide a one-stop vaccination stop for entire households.
  • Accelerating the effort to safely vaccinate children under the age of five.
  • Expanding the availability of at-home test kits.
  • Rapid response teams to help with widespread omicron outbreaks.
  • Another 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donated internationally within the next 100 days.

Biden’s speech outlining the plan comes a day after the U.S. confirmed its first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in a traveller who arrived in San Francisco from South Africa on Nov. 22.

The new variant is “cause for concern but not panic,” Biden said.

More omicron cases reported

U.S. health officials confirmed a second case of the variant on Thursday in Minnesota. It involved a vaccinated man who had attended an anime convention just before Thanksgiving in New York City that drew an estimated 50,000 people. That would suggest the variant has begun to spread within the U.S.

In addition to the convention attendee, health officials in New York said tests showed five other people in the city recently infected with COVID-19 had the variant.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the geographic spread of the positive tests suggested the variant was undergoing “community spread” in the city and wasn’t linked to any one event.

Another U.S. case of the variant was reported Thursday in a Colorado woman who had recently travelled to southern Africa.

COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. have dropped by about half since the delta variant peak in August and September, but at about 86,000 new infections per day, the numbers are still worrisomely high — especially heading into the holidays, when people travel and gather with family.

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U.S. to not reimburse private health insurers for covering at-home COVID test costs

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The U.S. government will not reimburse private health insurance companies for covering the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests, a White House official said on Thursday.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act require coverage of diagnostic testing for COVID-19 without any cost-sharing requirements during the public health emergency,” the White House official said.

“The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury will clarify that coverage of over-the-counter COVID-19 tests is generally subject to those provisions”, the official added.

 

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, writing by Kanishka Singh)

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Oil up on OPEC+ plan to meet ahead of schedule if Omicron dents demand

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Oil prices climbed on Friday, extending gains after OPEC+ said it would review supply additions ahead of its next scheduled meeting if the Omicron variant hits demand, but prices were still on course for a sixth week of declines.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 27 cents, or 0.4%, to $66.77 a barrel at 0122 GMT, adding to a 1.4% gain on Thursday.

Brent crude futures rose 12 cents, or 0.2%, to $69.79 a barrel, after climbing 1.2% in the previous session.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and allies, together called OPEC+, surprised the market on Thursday when it stuck to plans to add 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) supply in January.

However the producers left the door open to changing policy swiftly if demand suffered from measures to contain the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. They said they could meet again before their next scheduled meeting on Jan. 4, if needed.

That boosted prices with “traders reluctant to bet against the group eventually pausing its production increases,” ANZ Research analysts said in a note.

Wood Mackenzie analyst Ann-Louise Hittle said it made sense for OPEC+ to stick with their policy for now, given it was still unclear whether Omicron could resist existing vaccines.

“The group’s members are in regular contact and are monitoring the market situation closely,” Hittle said in emailed comments.

“As a result, they can react swiftly when we start to get a better sense of the scale of the impact the Omicron variant of COVID-19 could have on the global economy and demand.”

The market has been roiled all week by the emergence of Omicron and speculation that it could spark new lockdowns, dent fuel demand and spur OPEC+ to put its output increases on hold.

Brent was poised to end the week down about 4%, while WTI was on track for a 2% drop on the week, both down for a sixth straight week.

 

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; editing by Richard Pullin)

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