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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC News



The latest:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is calling for thousands of volunteers to staff new vaccination centres in shopping areas, stadiums and racecourses as the government accelerates its booster program to combat the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The drive comes two days after Johnson set a target of giving booster shots to all adults by the end of this year to stem the tide of omicron, the latest variant of concern.

“We need tens of thousands of people to help out — everyone from trained vaccinators to stewards,” Johnson said in a statement. “Many thousands have already given their time — but we need you to come forward again, to work alongside our brilliant GPs, doctors, nurses and pharmacists, to deliver jabs and save lives.”

Johnson faces a large rebellion among his Conservative lawmakers on Tuesday in a parliamentary vote over new restrictions to try to curb the spread of the new variant, which was first reported in southern Africa in November.

The House of Commons is voting on measures that come into force this week, ordering masks to be worn indoors in England, changing rules on self-isolation and — contentiously — requiring proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to enter nightclubs and large crowded events.

Vaccine passes have become commonplace in many European countries, but Johnson’s government has resisted introducing them in England, though the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which set their own health rules, have done so.

Johnson argues that the highly transmissible omicron strain has changed the argument, and vaccine passes are now a sensible measure. Many Conservative legislators disagree, arguing that vaccine passports are economically damaging and a restriction on individual freedoms.

Long queues formed at vaccine centres in England on Tuesday as hundreds of thousands of people rushed to get COVID-19 booster shots.

Omicron spreading quickly

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament that Britain will remove all 11 countries from its COVID-19 travel red list from Wednesday.

“Now that there is community transmission of omicron in the U.K. and omicron has spread so widely across the world, the travel red list is now less effective in slowing the incursion of omicron from abroad,” he said. “Whilst we will maintain our temporary testing measures for international travel, we will be removing all 11 countries from the travel red list effective from 4 a.m. tomorrow morning.”

Health officials with the World Health Organization — which had previously called for a moratorium on boosters as it worked to increase equitable access to the vaccine worldwide — on Tuesday noted that it’s still critical to get doses to people who have not yet had access to initial shots.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said vaccine booster shots can play a role in curbing the spread of COVID-19 as long as people most in need of protection also get access to jabs.

The update came as Tedros and colleagues urged people not to underestimate the virus even as scientists work to pin down more detail on the omicron variant.

“Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if omicron does cause less severe  disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” he said, noting in his briefing that omicron was “spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant.”

Tedros said 77 countries had reported cases of the omicron variant — and noted that it was likely that it had spread to other countries that had not yet detected it. 

From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 12:45 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | COVID-19: How can Canada fight omicron? 

COVID-19: How can Canada fight omicron?

16 hours ago

Duration 1:53

Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, discusses the steps needed to fight the expected wave of omicron and whether more lockdowns could be looming. 1:53

What’s happening around the world

People get vaccinated against COVID-19 at Soweto’s Baragwanath Hospital on Monday. South Africa’s seven-day rolling average of daily new COVID-19 cases has risen from 7.60 new cases per 100,000 people on Nov. 28 to 32.71 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 12, according to Johns Hopkins University. (Jerome Delay/The Associated Press)

As of early Tuesday morning, more than 270.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a case-tracking tool from U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.3 million.

The African continent might not reach the target of vaccinating 70 per cent of its 1.3 billion population against COVID-19 until the second half of 2024, a target many of the world’s richer countries have already met, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

The warning comes as the world faces a new surge in cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant. Health officials in South Africa, which first announced the variant, say early data indicates it causes less severe illness and shorter, less-intensive hospital stays. But some richer countries have rushed to allow booster vaccine doses in response, even as less than eight per cent of Africa’s population has received two doses.

Just 20 of Africa’s 54 countries have fully vaccinated at least 10 per cent of their populations against COVID-19. And 10 countries have fully vaccinated less than two per cent of their populations.

The WHO Africa director, Matshidiso Moeti, pushed back against any suggestion that African nations are allowing large numbers of vaccine doses to go to waste amid poor infrastructure and vaccine hesitancy. The African continent has received about 434 million vaccine doses, and some 910,000 of them have expired in 20 countries, Moeti said. The main challenge in Africa, she said, remains access to vaccine supplies.

In Europe, France is contemplating tightening controls for travellers coming from Britain, where the new, more contagious omicron coronavirus variant seems to be rapidly spreading, said French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal.

“Regarding Britain, the current rule is to show a negative test less than 48 hours old in order to enter France,” Attal told France Info radio on Tuesday. “But we are always looking at means to tighten the framework. We are currently working on that and we should, I think, come to a conclusion in the coming days.”

A medical staff member works in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for COVID-19 patients at La Timone hospital in Marseille, France, last Friday as the country sees an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. (Eric Gaillard/Reuters)

Meanwhile, the Dutch government on Tuesday said it is considering closing schools a week early for Christmas this year as coronavirus infections remain high and hospitals struggle with a wave of COVID-19 patients.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is considering requiring its residents to get a booster shot to qualify as fully vaccinated against COVID-19, its health minister said.

In the Middle East, Oman reported two cases of the omicron variant. Health ministry officials said the cases involved travel abroad, according to local media reports.

In the Americas, the omicron variant was estimated to be 2.9 per cent of the COVID-19 variants circulating in the United States as of Dec. 11, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the week ending Dec. 4, the omicron variant constituted 0.4 per cent of all the variants in the country, based on the specimens sequenced.

The agency also estimated that the fast-spreading variant was 13.1 per cent of circulating coronavirus variants in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands for the week ending Dec. 11.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 10:25 a.m. ET

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U.S. charges man with human smuggling after 4 freeze to death near Canada border



U.S. authorities on Thursday charged a man with human smuggling of Indian nationals from Canada, the day after four people including a baby were found frozen to death in a remote part of Canada close to the Minnesota border.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota said 47-year-old Steve Shand had been arrested just south of the border on Wednesday while driving two undocumented Indian citizens.

U.S. border patrol agents soon came across five more Indians traveling on foot, one of whom was carrying a backpack belonging to a family of four who had become separated from the group as they all tried to cross the border.

They alerted Canadian police who found the victims – a man, a woman, a teenage boy and a baby – about 40 feet (12 meters) from the frontier with Minnesota. First indications are that they died from exposure to the cold.

“These victims faced not only the cold weather, but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a televised news conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Wind chill had driven down the temperature to minus 35 C (minus 31 F), she said.

The U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement that the four victims had tentatively been identified as the missing Indian family.

The five Indian nationals explained they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone and estimated they had been walking around for over 11 hours.

Shand has been charged with one count of human smuggling. He is next due in court on Jan 24.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)

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Canada agency says Russian-backed actors targeting infrastructure



Network operators of critical Canadian infrastructure should boost their defenses against Russian state-sponsored threats, Canada’s signals intelligence agency said on Thursday.

The warning from the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is the latest in a series of bulletins from Canada’s two main spy agencies accusing Russian actors of trying to hack into sensitive computer systems.

“(CSE) encourages the Canadian cyber-security community —especially critical infrastructure network defenders — to bolster their awareness of and protection against Russian state-sponsored cyber threats,” it said in a statement.

Russian actors and others are targeting critical infrastructure network operators as well as their operational and information technology, it added.

Operators should be prepared to isolate components and services that “would be considered attractive to a hostile threat actor to disrupt” and boost vigilance, CSE said.

Canada has had poor relations with Russia since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Ottawa fears armed conflict could break out in Ukraine and is working with allies to make clear to Russia that any further aggression towards Kiev is unacceptable, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.


(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Canada adds jobs for fifth month in December -ADP



Canada added 19,200 jobs in December, the fifth straight month of gains, led by hiring in the professional and business services and leisure and hospitality sectors, a report from payroll services provider ADP showed on Thursday.

The November data was revised to show 102,100 jobs were created rather than an increase of 231,800. The report, which is derived from ADP’s payrolls data, measures the change in total nonfarm payroll employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.


(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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