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



The latest:

California will become the first state in the U.S. to require all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing as schools return from summer break amid growing concerns about the highly contagious delta variant, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.

The new policy applies to both public and private schools and will affect more than 800,000 employees, including about 320,000 public school teachers and a host of support staff such as cafeteria workers and cleaners, the state’s public health department said. It will also apply to school volunteers.

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Newsom announced the new policy at a San Francisco Bay Area school that reopened earlier this week to in-person classes. Many California schools are back in session, with others starting in the coming weeks.

“We think this is the right thing to do, and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open and to address the number one anxiety that parents like myself have for young children,” said Newsom, who is a father of four. “That is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe.”

A sign at the entrance to a charter school advises that masks are required to enter in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Newsom had previously issued a school mask mandate that applies to teachers and students. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Several large school districts in the state have issued similar requirements in recent days, including San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Long Beach Unified.

California, like the rest of the country, has seen a troubling surge in COVID-19 infections because of the delta variant, which represents the vast majority of new cases. It has affected children more than previous strains of the virus, prompting a growing number of teachers unions to ease earlier opposition to vaccine mandates.

California’s two largest teachers unions, both powerful political allies to the governor, said Wednesday they fully supported Newsom’s policy.

The California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers both cited state and national polling that indicates nearly 90 per cent of educators have been vaccinated but said the rising spread of the delta variant, particularly among children, makes the new policy necessary. Children under 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

While Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced last week that all Department of Education staffers would be required to disclose their vaccination status or face weekly testing, California’s order is far more sweeping, applying to all staff who work in both public and private schools in the country’s most populous state.

Over the past few weeks, Newsom has mandated that all health-care workers must be fully vaccinated and required that all state employees get vaccinated or choose weekly testing. The weekly testing schedule is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For schools, Newsom had already issued a mask mandate that applies to teachers and students. But until Wednesday, he had left the decision of whether to require vaccines up to local districts.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is requiring employees who provide care for patients to get their COVID-19 shots.

Thursday’s order from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will affect more than 25,000 clinicians, researchers, contractors, trainees and volunteers with the National Institutes of Health, the Indian Health Service, and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | What’s being done to improve indoor air quality for students:

The efforts to improve indoor air quality for students

15 hours ago

As Canada enters a fourth wave of COVID-19, work is underway to improve air quality in schools and help keep students safe by doing everything from upgrading ventilation systems to bringing in portable air filters. 7:37

What’s happening around the world

A woman carries a computer monitor to work from home in Canberra on Thursday, as Australia’s capital was ordered into a seven-day lockdown after a single COVID-19 case was detected. (Rohan Thomson/AFP/Getty Images)

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 204.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to the coronavirus tracker maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.3 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s capital is going into lockdown for a week from Thursday after a single case of COVID-19 was detected and the virus was found in wastewater. Canberra joins Sydney, Melbourne and several cities in New South Wales state that are locked down due to the delta variant.

The infection is the first locally acquired case in the city of 460,000 since July 10 last year. The source of the infection was unknown, Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said.

Later Thursday, ACT Health tweeted that it had been notified of another three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the territory, all of whom are close contacts of the first case.

New Zealand plans to allow quarantine-free entry to vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries from early 2022, as it looks to open its borders again after nearly 18 months of pandemic-induced isolation.

In the Middle East, Turkey is considering mandating regular negative PCR tests from vaccine-hesitant parents as the country prepares to return to face-to-face education. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said the government was determined to reopen schools on Sept. 6.

A medic prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in an ambulance parked on a main street as her colleagues make a public announcement from it to convince people to get vaccinated, in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on July 27. (Sertac Kayar/Reuters)

In Europe, Russia on Thursday reported a record-high 808 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours and 21,932 new COVID-19 cases, including 2,294 in Moscow. Russia’s daily reported cases have gradually dipped from a peak in July that authorities blamed on the infectious delta variant and a slow vaccination rate.

France will share 670,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses with Vietnam to help the Asian country tackle the virus, French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

In the Americas, Chile on Wednesday began administering booster shots to those already inoculated with Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine in a bid to lock in early success following one of the world’s fastest mass vaccination drives.

In Africa, the Kenyan oxygen production firm Hewatele is doubling production this year to keep up with surging demand from hospitals treating critically ill COVID-19 patients, it said.

Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.

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Military faces calls to return general to duty after sexual assault acquittal



The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to return Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to duty after the senior officer, who previously oversaw the Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, was acquitted of sexual assault.

The military says it is considering the implications of the ruling, which was handed down by a Quebec civilian judge on Monday following a high-profile trial.

Fortin’s lawyer, Natalia Rodriguez, says her client is ready, willing and able to return to service after being essentially put on paid leave for more than a year.

But Rodriguez also says that Fortin’s career and reputation have suffered as a result of the allegation against him, and the way it was handled by the Liberal government and the military.

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Retired colonel Michel Drapeau, who is now a lawyer specializing in military cases, says the acquittal should pave the way for Fortin should be immediately assigned to a new role with full duties.

But he and others say the government may instead offer a settlement in return for Fortin’s retirement, similar to what happened when the breach of trust case against vice-admiral Mark Norman was dropped in May 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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No legal obligation to bring Canadians home from Syria, federal lawyer tells court



A government lawyer is telling a Federal Court hearing that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not obligate Ottawa to repatriate Canadians held in Syrian camps.

Family members of 23 detained Canadians are asking the court to order the government to arrange for their return, saying that refusing to do so violates the Charter.

Federal lawyer Anne Turley told the court today there is no legal obligation to facilitate repatriation of these Canadians in the Charter, statute or international law.

A handful of women and children have returned from the region in recent years, but Canada has, for the most part, not followed the path of other countries that have successfully repatriated citizens.

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Even so, Global Affairs Canada recently determined that six women and 13 children included in the court case have met a threshold under its policy framework for providing extraordinary assistance — meaning Canada might step in.

The Canadian citizens are among the many foreign nationals in Syrian camps run by Kurdish forces that reclaimed the war-torn region from the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.

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Federal Court of Appeal uphold the rules that bolster compensation for air passengers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage



The Federal Court of Appeal says it will uphold all but one of the rules that bolster compensation for air passengers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage.

Air Canada, Porter Airlines and several other parties had argued that the passenger rights charter launched in 2019 violates global standards.

The appellants argued the charter should be rendered invalid for international flights.

But the court has ruled to dismiss the appeal, aside from the regulation that compensates passengers for the temporary loss of baggage.

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