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



The latest:

Romania has the second-lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the 27-nation European Union and one of the world’s highest mortality rates from the illness, with doctors warning that the pandemic is ravaging a generation of grandparents.

In a central Romanian hospital, elderly patients gasping for air through oxygen masks struggled to explain why they had not been vaccinated despite easy access earlier in the pandemic.

Florea Traznea, 73, said he thought he knew better than other people, including his family.

“My children are vaccinated, I have two grandchildren, but my wife and I aren’t, because we’re smarter, or stupid, rather,” he said. “Look at what I’m going through — this disease has brought me to the ground.”

Across the hall, 72-year-old Elena Boziru said she stuck mostly to home and had no health problems, so she chose not to get the vaccine, like many of her neighbours.

Valeriu Gheorghita, president of the National Committee for Co-ordination of Vaccination Activities against COVID-19, administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to a man during a vaccination marathon in Bucharest, Romania, on Oct. 24. (Georg Calin/Inquam Photos/Reuters)

Roughly 85 per cent of the more than 50,000 people who have died of COVID-19 in Romania were over 60 years old, according to public health institute data. More than 90 per cent of all deaths have been among unvaccinated patients.

“There is this mentality of, ‘At my age I will live for as long as I am meant to,’ and it is very difficult to convince the respective people to get vaccinated. It is a matter of how they perceive life and risk of disease,” said Valeriu Gheorghita, a doctor in charge of co-ordinating Romania’s vaccination campaign.

Vaccine uptake has risen significantly since last month with 1.4 million people getting their first shot as fear and movement restrictions kicked in, but the vast majority were under 60.

Gheorghita said that unlike in other EU countries where many older people live in retirement homes or receive some form of institutional care, in Romania they are more likely to remain in their homes, alone and harder to reach.

“There is also an issue of trust, they are extremely hesitant and reticent to get vaccinated, and this also ties into their religious beliefs.”

Having tried other methods in vain, Gheorghita said authorities were working on sending letters to citizens about the benefits of vaccines and how to access them via fixed centres, family doctors and mobile units.

Across the EU, 81 per cent of the adult population has received at least one vaccine dose. In Romania that figure is 43.8 per cent, the second lowest in the bloc after neighbouring Bulgaria. For Romanians over 80, it is just 23.6 per cent.

Nearly a third of all COVID-19 deaths in Romania since the onset of the pandemic early last year have occurred in just the past few weeks as daily infection numbers rocketed to record highs and depleted intensive care beds across the country.

— From Reuters, last updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Helping people with needle phobia get a COVID-19 vaccine: 

Helping people overcome needle phobia for a COVID-19 vaccine

17 hours ago

An estimated four per cent of Canadians suffer from a severe needle phobia, many of them children, so clinics and experts across Canada are using distraction, patience and conversation to help them get vaccinated against COVID-19. 2:07

What’s happening around the world

WATCH | After the world passed the tragic milestone of five million deaths from the coronavirus, a top WHO official urged leaders to do more to fight the pandemic worldwide, asking: ‘How many more people need to die?’ 

WHO challenges world leaders to end COVID-19 pandemic

After the world passed the ‘tragic milestone’ of five million deaths from the coronavirus, the World Health Organization warned that the trajectory for the pandemic’s path in 2022 is in people’s hands but says they must make the right choices.( Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters) 2:22

As of Friday afternoon, more than 248.9 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 five million.

In the Americas, attorneys general in 11 states filed suit Friday against President Joe Biden’s administration, challenging a new vaccine requirement for workers at companies with more than 100 employees.

The lawsuit filed in the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals argues that the authority to compel vaccinations rests with the states, not the federal government.

“This mandate is unconstitutional, unlawful and unwise,” said the court filing by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, one of several Republicans vying for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat next year.

New regulations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandate that companies with more than 100 employees require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested for the virus weekly and wear masks on the job. The requirement is to kick in Jan. 4. Failure to comply could result in penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Indonesia’s economic growth slowed more than expected in the third quarter as restrictions to control COVID-19 weighed on activity, although recent data suggests growth may be getting back on track in the current quarter. 

Australia’s Victoria state removed entry restrictions to citizens of neighbouring New South Wales on Friday, allowing almost blanket reciprocal travel between the country’s two biggest states ahead of the busy Christmas period.

In Africa, Kenya’s health ministry on Thursday reported 149 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 additional deaths.

In Europe, Germany’s COVID-19 situation is entering a very difficult period with rising numbers of intensive care patients, health minister Jens Spahn said, as German state leaders warned the country may need a new lockdown unless it takes urgent action.

Head physician Lorenz Nowak treats a coronavirus patient in the ICU of the Asklepios Clinic in Munich on Thursday, as Germany deals with an increasing number of COVID-19 cases. (Peter Kneffel/dpa/The Associated Press)

At a news conference Friday, Spahn said he had agreed with regional health ministers that in the future everyone should be offered a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine six months after receiving their previous injection.

Germany reported 37,120 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the second day in a row that it marked the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic last year.

Russia reported 40,735 new COVID-19 cases and 1,192 deaths related to the virus on Friday as authorities fight a surge that has forced them to re-impose a partial lockdown nationwide.

WATCH | Inside a Russian hospital struggling with COVID-19 cases:

Inside a Russian hospital struggling with COVID-19 cases

2 days ago

A CBC News crew goes inside one of Russia’s biggest hospitals as it struggles to keep up with COVID-19 cases. 4:17

Meanwhile, in Croatia, authorities will limit gatherings and widen the use of COVID-19 passes to curb soaring infections after the numbers of infected people reached new highs again on Friday. The country’s crisis team says the new rules for gatherings will apply starting Saturday, while the use of COVID passes will take more time to prepare.

In the Middle East, Israel on Thursday reported 554 new cases of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker, as well as three additional deaths.

In Iran, there were 9,862 new cases reported Thursday according to the tracker, along with 158 additional deaths.

— From Reuters, CBC News and The Associated Press, last updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

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First cases of COVID-19 discovered in Canadian wildlife – CTV News



The first cases of COVID-19 in Canadian wildlife have been discovered in three white-tailed deer, a press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada reports.

The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease confirmed the detections on Nov. 29 but the deer were sampled between Nov. 6 to 8 in the Estrie region of Quebec. The deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease and were “all apparently healthy.”

“As this is the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife in Canada, information on the impacts and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited,” the press release states.

“The finding emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to increase our understanding about SARS-CoV-2 on the human-animal interface.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health was notified about the discovery on Dec. 1.

The department is urging added precaution – like wearing a well-fitted mask – when exposed to “respiratory tissues and fluids from deer.”

The virus has been found in multiple animal species globally including farmed mink, cats, dogs, ferrets, and zoo animals such as tigers, lions, gorillas, cougars, otters and others.

“Recent reports in the United States have revealed evidence of spillover of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to wild white-tailed deer, with subsequent spread of the virus among deer. There has been no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time,” the release reads.

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U.N. seeks record $41 billion for aid to hotspots led by Afghanistan, Ethiopia



The United Nations appealed on Thursday for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to 183 million people worldwide caught up in conflict and poverty, led by a tripling of its programme in Afghanistan.

Famine remains a “terrifying prospect” for 45 million people living in 43 countries, as extreme weather caused by climate change shrinks food supplies, the U.N. said in the annual appeal, which reflected a 17% rise in annual funding needs.

“The drivers of needs are ones which are familiar to all of us. Tragically, it includes protracted conflicts, political instability, failing economies … the climate crisis, not a new crisis, but one which urges more attention and of course the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.

In a report to donors, the world body said: “Without sustained and immediate action, 2022 could be catastrophic.”

Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan are the five major crises requiring the most funding, topped by $4.5 billion sought for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where “needs are skyrocketing”, it said.

In Afghanistan, more than 24 million people require life-saving assistance, a dramatic increase driven by political tumult, repeated economic shocks, and severe food insecurity caused by the worst drought in 27 years.

“We are in the business in the U.N. of trying to urgently establish with support from the World Bank as well as the U.N. system, a currency swap initiative which will allow liquidity to go into the economy,” Griffiths said.

“The absence of cash in Afghanistan is a major impediment to any delivery of services,” he said. “I am hoping that we get it up and running before the end of this month.”

In Ethiopia, where a year-old conflict between government and Tigrayan forces has spread into the Amhara and Afar regions, thousands have been displaced, while fighting, drought and locusts push more to the brink, the U.N. said.

Nearly 26 million Ethiopians require aid, including more than 9 million who depend on food rations, including 5 million in Tigray, amid rising malnutrition rates, it said.

“Ethiopia is the most alarming probably almost certainly in terms of immediate emergency need,” Griffiths said, adding that 400,000 people had been deemed at risk of famine already in May.

Noting that heavy fighting continued, with government forces battling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front forces who have moved closer to the capital Addis Ababa, he added: “But capacity to respond to an imploded Ethiopia is almost impossible to imagine.”


(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Richard Pullin)

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Doug Ford applauds new COVID-19 travel restrictions, says more discussions with feds to be held –



Ontario Premier Doug Ford thanked the federal government for implementing new travel restrictions in a bid to stop the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and said more discussions will be held about possibly expanding new testing rules to travellers from the United States.

Ford made the remarks at an unrelated press conference in Mississauga Wednesday morning.

Several Omicron variant cases have already been confirmed in Ontario, and Ford said while it is a “cause for concern” it is “not cause for panic.”

“Every day we hold off more cases entering our country, the more time we have to learn and prepare,” Ford said.

Read more:

Canada expands travel ban, seeks booster guidance

“So the best thing we can do right now is fortify our borders. Our best defence is keeping the variant out of our country. We welcome the actions from the federal government and I want to thank the feds for taking action to date.

“We implored them last week to act quickly and be decisive on the borders and they did.”

In a statement last Friday, Ford called on the federal government to enact travel bans on “countries of concern” and the feds followed through just hours later.

On Tuesday, they expanded that ban to three additional countries.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said foreign nationals from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt who have been to those countries over the past two weeks will not be able to enter Canada. This added to the seven other African countries barred by Canada on Friday: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Click to play video: 'Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions'

Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions

Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions

Canadians and permanent residents, as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada, who have transited through these countries over the past two weeks, will have to quarantine, be tested at the airport, and await their test results before exiting quarantine, Duclos said.

It was also announced that all air travellers entering Canada — excluding those coming from the United States — would have to get tested when they arrive and isolate until they receive a negative result. That measure applies to all travellers, regardless of vaccination status.

Duclos said Wednesday that it will take time to implement the new measure.

In his statement last week, Ford also called for point-of-arrival testing to be put in place.

He also said he advised the province’s chief medical officer and Public Health Ontario to “immediately implement expanded surveillance” and update planning to “ensure we are ready for any outcome.”

The Omicron variant has now been detected in many countries around the world, including, as of Wednesday, the United States.

Ford was asked if he would support expanding the new testing rules to those arriving from the States.

“I would always support anything that can be cautious to prevent this variant coming into our country. So, again we’ll have a discussion with the federal government. That’s their jurisdiction, it’s not ours,” Ford said.

“They work collaboratively with all the provinces and territories and I’m always for going the cautious route as I think people have seen over the last 20 months.”

The premier added that “it doesn’t take much to get a test at the airport.”

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Wednesday that it’s too early to say whether Canada’s latest requirement to test arriving air travellers will be extended to include those coming from the United States.

“We need to be prepared and ready if we need to adjust that decision to include travellers from the U.S. We haven’t made that decision yet,” he said.

Read more:

Feds, provinces considering expanding COVID-19 tests for U.S. travellers amid Omicron

When asked what provincial measures are being considered in response to the Omicron variant, Ford said they will make sure there is expanded testing capacity and contact tracing.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there is still much that isn’t known about the variant, including how effective vaccines are against it.

She said the province is “continuing with all of our precautions” and said it’s important to keep border restrictions in place until more is known about the variant.

Elliott also said more information will be released in the coming days “with respect to age categories” on booster shots.

— With files from Saba Aziz and The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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