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

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The latest:

  • Liberals introduce bill to ban intimidation of patients and health-care workers.

Israel on Saturday said it would ban the entry of all foreigners into the country — making it the first to shut its borders completely in response to the potentially more contagious omicron coronavirus variant — and that it would also reintroduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology in order to contain the spread of the variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days.

“Our working hypotheses are that the variant is already in nearly every country,” Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked told local media, “and that the vaccine is effective, although we don’t yet know to what degree.”

Israelis entering the country, including those who are vaccinated, will be required to quarantine, Bennett said. The ban will come into effect at midnight between Sunday and Monday. A travel ban on foreigners coming from most African states was imposed on Friday.

WATCH | What’s known about the omicron variant: 

What’s known about the omicron variant

The World Health Organization has declared a new variant of concern called omicron, first identified in South Africa. Scientists say there are a large number of mutations in the omicron variant, which means it could be more infectious and cause more severe illness. 3:00

The Shin Bet domestic security agency’s phone-tracking technology will be used to locate carriers of the new variant in order to curb its transmission to others, the statement said.

Used on and off since March 2020, the surveillance technology matched virus carriers’ locations against other mobile phones nearby to determine with whom they had come into contact. Israel’s Supreme Court this year limited the scope of its use after civil rights groups mounted challenges over privacy concerns.

The variant — which since first being detected in South Africa has also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany and Britain — has sparked global concern and a wave of travel curbs, although epidemiologists say travel curbs may be too late to stop omicron from circulating globally.

Israel has so far confirmed one case of omicron, with seven suspected cases. The Health Ministry has not said whether the confirmed case was vaccinated. Three of the seven suspected cases were fully vaccinated, the ministry said on Saturday, and three had not returned from travel abroad recently.

Also on Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was necessary to take “targeted and precautionary measures” after two people in the U.K. tested positive for a recently discovered coronavirus variant.

WATCH | U.K. tightens COVID-19 rules over omicron concerns:

U.K. tightens COVID-19 rules as world on alert over new omicron variant

9 hours ago

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was necessary to take ‘targeted and precautionary measures’ after two people in the U.K. tested positive for a recently discovered coronavirus variant. 3:51

He told a news conference that the new rules will be reviewed in three weeks when scientists will know more about the variant, named omicron. It was first detected in South Africa this past week.

Johnson said anyone arriving in England will be asked to take a mandatory PCR test for COVID-19 on the second day and must self-isolate until they provide a negative test. And if someone tests positive for the omicron variant, their close contacts will have to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status.

He also said mask-wearing in shops and on public transit will be required and that the vaccination program will be accelerated, without providing specific details.


What’s happening across Canada


What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 260.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus database. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.1 million.

In the Americas, France has postponed implementing a vaccination mandate for health workers in the Caribbean territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe after the measure spurred widespread protests in which police officers were injured and journalists attacked.

PHOTOS | France mulls more autonomy for Martinique, Guadeloupe amid COVID-19 riots: 

In Europe, hospitals in southern and eastern regions of Germany have warned they are running out of intensive care beds because of the large numbers of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

In Africa, officials in South Africa say urgent preparations are needed to enable public hospitals to cope with a potential omicron-driven influx of patients needing intensive care.

In Asia, India restarted exports of vaccines to the global vaccine-sharing network COVAX for the first time since April, and producer Serum Institute of India forecast a substantial increase in supplies beginning early next year.

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Vatican fraud trial to resume with boost for prosecution

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The Vatican‘s landmark fraud and embezzlement trial resumes after a long break on Tuesday with the beleaguered prosecution buoyed by two favourable decisions in related cases by Swiss and Italian courts.

The trial, in which defendants are accused of fraud and other crimes around the Vatican’s 350 million euro ($400 million) purchase of a luxury building in London, is still mired in procedural wrangling.

Tuesday’s hearing, only the sixth since the trial started amid much fanfare in July, will likely do little more than settle several more preliminary issues, meaning the trial won’t get going in earnest until February.

At the last hearing on Dec. 14 – which lasted only 10 minutes – a frustrated court president Giuseppe Pignatone said he hoped the preliminary phase could end soon so the hearings could be held more frequently.

Four of original 10 defendants were temporarily removed from the indictment in October after Pignatone found fault with the original investigation. He ordered the prosecution to go back and repeat questioning of the four because procedural steps designed to protect the defendants was not followed the first time around.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the prosecution is expected to announce which charges it intends to either keep or drop against each of the four.

All 10 defendants, including a once-powerful Vatican cardinal, have denied wrongdoing.

Lawyers for two Italian brokers for the Vatican’s investment in the London building – Raffaele Mincione and Gianluigi Torzi – have insisted that their clients cannot get a fair trial in the Vatican.

Mincione helped the Vatican make the original investment in 2014. In 2018, when the Vatican felt it was allegedly being fleeced by Mincione, it turned to Torzi to try to take total control of the building.

The Vatican has charged Mincione with fraud, embezzlement and money laundering. Torzi is charged with fraud, extortion and money laundering.

This month, the prosecution got a much-needed boost from two foreign courts, which, while ruling on related cases, effectively rejected defence assertions about alleged lack of fairness for their clients in the Vatican judicial system.

Torzi is in London fighting extradition requests by both Italy and the Vatican for alleged financial crimes. In a decision published this month, Italy’s supreme court rejected assertions by Torzi’s lawyers attacking the credibility of the Vatican court.

Earlier in January, a Swiss court rejected a request by Mincione to unblock funds that the Vatican prosecutors had asked be frozen while the trial continues. Mincione’s lawyers had also cited what they said were defects in the Vatican judicial system.

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State sank more than 350 million euros into the London investment. The Vatican is now in the final stages of selling the building at a reported loss of 100 million euros.

The most prominent defendant is Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former deputy secretary of state who was sacked by Pope Francis for alleged nepotism before the trial began. Becciu was deputy secretary of state in the early phases of the deal.

($1 = 0.8818 euros)

 

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern cancels her wedding amid new Omicron restrictions

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has cancelled her wedding as the nation imposes new restrictions to slow the community spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, she told reporters on Sunday.

New Zealand will impose mask rules and limit gathering from midnight on Sunday after a cluster of nine COVID-19 Omicron cases showed community spread from the North to South islands after a wedding.

A family returned to Nelson in the South Island by plane after attending a wedding and other events in Auckland in the North Island. The family and a flight attendant tested positive.

New Zealand will move to a red setting under its COVID-19 protection framework, with more mask wearing. Indoor hospitality settings such as bars and restaurants and events like weddings will be capped at 100 people. The limit is lowered to 25 people if venues are not using vaccine passes, Arden said.

“My wedding will not be going ahead,” she told reporters, adding she was sorry for anyone caught up in a similar scenario. Ardern had not disclosed her wedding date, but it was rumored to be imminent.

Asked by reporters how she felt about the cancellation of her wedding to longtime partner and fishing-show host Clarke Gayford, Ardern replied: “Such is life.”

She added, “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill. That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”

New Zealand’s borders have been shut to foreigners since March 2020. The government pushed back plans for a phased reopening from mid-January to the end of February out of concern about a potential Omicron outbreak as in neighbouring Australia.

People able to travel to New Zealand under narrow exceptions must apply to stay at state-managed quarantine facilities. The government last week stopped issuing any new slots amid a surge in the number of people arriving with Omicron.

About 94% of New Zealand’s population over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated and about 56% of those eligible have had booster shots.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Trucker convoy: Industry group condemns protest – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
A Canadian federation of provincial trucking groups is speaking out against planned protests by unvaccinated truckers opposed to a vaccine mandate for cross-border travel.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance issued a statement on Saturday saying it does not support and “strongly disapproves” of protests staged on public roads, highways and bridges.

Alliance President Stephen Laskowski says because both Canada and the United States have cross-border vaccination rules in place, truckers “must adapt and comply.”

A website run by protest organizers says convoys of demonstrators are slated to hit the road from British Columbia today, while similar groups from across the country are expected to convene in Ottawa for a mass protest on Jan. 29.

The group has raised over $2.3 million in donations, which will go to the cost of fuel, food and accommodations for participating protesters, according to its GoFundMe page.

The Liberal government announced in November that all Canadian truckers looking to cross the border from the United States would need to be vaccinated in order to avoid a 14-day quarantine, a policy that came into effect on Jan. 15.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2022.

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